Blood shortage hurts hospitals
Tuesday, August 1, 2017 by Benjamin Winn and Nate Jastrzemski firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com in Local News
A seasonal shortage of blood donors around the nation has led to what the Red Cross is calling a blood emergency.
In the past two months, the Red Cross has seen 61,000 fewer blood donations than average. That is equivalent to the approximate number of losses the Red Cross would see if it received no donations for more than four days.
“A lot of people just don’t think about giving blood,” said Alana Mauger, external communications manager for the Red Cross Northeastern Pennsylvania Blood Services Region.
“Most people who take exit surveys say before they donated the first time they never thought about it.”
Blood shortages often worsen around Independence Day due to fewer volunteer-hosted blood drives at places of work, worship or community gathering spaces. Nearly 700 fewer blood drives are scheduled during the Independence Day week than the weeks before and after the holiday.
Mauger said the December holidays can also cause a drop in donations, especially if there is heavy snow.
It is all part of a larger trend, however, said Miller-Keystone Blood Center Director of Donor Resources Debra Otto. “There has been a worldwide decline in blood donation over the past several years. Some of the reasons include an aging donor base, a decrease in civic engagement, reduction of the eligible donor base due to increasingly stringent donor exclusion criteria, and a disaster mentality among the public.”
Otto said blood centers are increasingly dependent on donors aged 16-24. High school and college drives represent a large portion of the blood collected, so when school is out they struggle to replace those units.
During blood emergencies, Mauger said, hospitals may have patients delay procedures or send them elsewhere.
Otto said in times of need Miller-Keystone holds special events, and offers raffle prizes and bonus LifeSaver Reward’s Store points for donations, but regular donors are the backbone of the industry. “Educating the public about the continual need for blood donation is a challenge,” she said. “Forty percent of the population is eligible to donate, but only 3 percent do. Yet nearly 100 percent of us know someone who has been impacted by a cancer diagnosis. Cancer patients can utilize up to 100 units of red blood cells and/or platelet products during the course of their treatment. Educating the public is key to bridging that gap that exists between the 40 percent and 3 percent.”
“Donating isn’t as scary as some people might think,” Mauger explained. “The donation process takes about an hour, but you’re only in the donation chair for eight to 10 minutes on average, and you feel great afterward because you’re helping.”
Mauger said that first-time donors should visit redcrossblood.org and look for the section for those donating the first time to learn more about the process going in. She said donors should eat a good meal and drink plenty of liquids before donating. She also said donors should ask questions when they donate.
“The technicians are there ready to help with any questions you might have while you’re there.”
Volunteers are also needed in ways that don’t involve donating blood. Organizations also need volunteers to help transport blood and help run blood drives.
“When you go to a blood drive, the people who check you in and greet you, they’re all volunteers, and we need them. We also need volunteer drivers to help transport the blood,” Mauger said. “You can also host virtual blood drives and have others donate on your behalf by going to redcrossblood.org/sleevesup.”
The Red Cross has added more than 25,000 additional appointment slots at donation centers and community blood drives across the country over the next few weeks to accommodate more donors.
For more information, go to redcrossblood.org or call 800-733-2767.
• Palmerton Hospital, Palmerton, July 19, 1 to 4 p.m.
• Hope Lutheran Church, Cherryville, July 23, 7:30 a.m. to noon.
• Masonic Lodge 238, Tamaqua, Aug. 2, 2 to 7 p.m.
• Penn Forest Township Volunteer Fire Company, Jim Thorpe, Aug. 7, 3 to 7 p.m.
• Gnaden Huetten Hospital, Lehighton, Aug. 9, 2 to 6 p.m.
• Western Pocono Community Library, Brodheadsville, 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. first Wednesday of the month; noon to 6 p.m. third Wednesday of the month.