Thousands donate, but Red Cross blood shortage continues

Independent Newsmedia

Thousands of people have responded to the emergency call for blood and platelet donations issued by the American Red Cross in early July, but there continues to be a critical summer blood shortage.

Eligible donors of all types are are urged to give now. As a special thank you, those who come out to give blood or platelets with the Red Cross now through Aug. 31 will be emailed a $5 Target eGiftCard.

“The blood supply is like a cell phone battery, it constantly needs recharging,” said Nick Gehrig, spokesman for Red Cross Blood Services. “We sincerely appreciate those who have responded to the call to help save lives and encourage those who haven’t to consider rolling up a sleeve and give the gift of life. It only takes about an hour but can mean a lifetime for patients.”

Red Cross collections staff member Andrea Farnes chats with whole-blood donor Kaisha Walker. [Amanda Romney/American Red Cross].

After issuing the emergency call, the Red Cross has experienced a 30 percent increase in blood donation appointments through mid-July. About half of theappointments were scheduled by donors using the free Blood Donor App or at redcrossblood.org.

Despite this improvement, blood products are still being distributed to hospitals as fast as donations are coming in, so more donations are needed to meet patient needs and replenish the blood supply.

Nearly 61,000 fewer blood donations than needed were given through the Red Cross in May and June, prompting the emergency call for donations in early July. The shortfall was the equivalent of the Red Cross not receiving any blood donations for more than four days.

Blood shortages could lead to delays in patient care, something Arthur Bourget learned firsthand after being diagnosed with leukemia in July 2007. When he arrived for his second blood transfusion, he was told the blood he needed was not available, according to American Red Cross. He waited eight hours for blood to arrive and to receive the transfusion he needed that day.

“One thing that I committed to my wife was that I was going to beat leukemia, no matter what, and I was going to do that,” said Mr. Bourget. “But what I wasn’t going to be able to do was survive without the blood that I needed.”

Mr. Bourget went into remission following a successful treatment plan, which included 28 blood and 34 platelet transfusions. He has been a faithful advocate for blood donations ever since.

“If it wasn’t for the generosity of volunteer blood donors, I would not be here today,” he said. “My daughter would not have a father, and my wife would not have a husband. Thank you and please give blood. You may never know the life you have saved, but I guarantee they will never forget you.”

To schedule an appointment to donate, use the Blood Donor App, visit redcrossblood.­­org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Donation appointments and completion of a RapidPass online health history questionnaire are encouraged to help reduce the time it takes to donate.

Upcoming blood donation opportunities in the area will be:

•10 a.m.-3 p.m., Aug. 12 at Best Buy Arrowhead Glendale, 8290 W. Bell Road.

• 10 a.m.-2:15 p.m., Aug. 13 at Sky Zone Trampoline Park, 9040 W. Larkspur Drive, No. 134.

What to know about giving blood: A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

Blood donors can now save time at their next donation by using RapidPass to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, prior to arriving at the blood drive. To get started and learn more, visit redcrossblood.org/Rapid Pass and follow the instructions on the site.

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission.

For more information, visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.­­org, or on Twitter at @RedCross.

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