This January, National Blood Donor Month, the American Red Cross says it has an urgent need for blood and platelet donors to help address a winter donation shortage.
Severe winter weather has had a “tremendous impact” on blood donations already this year, with more than 150 blood drives forced to cancel, causing 5,500 blood and platelet donations to go uncollected, according to a news release. This is in addition to seasonal illnesses, such as the flu, and hectic holiday schedules collectively contributing to more than 28,000 fewer donations than what was needed in November and December, the organization said.
In Massachusetts, 25 blood drives were forced to cancel due to last week’s winter storm, causing 681 donations to go uncollected.
“Even temporary disruptions to blood and platelet donations can diminish the availability for hospital patients,” said Kelly Isenor, external communications manager of the Massachusetts Red Cross Blood Services Region. “It’s the blood on the shelves that helps save lives in an emergency, and that’s why we’re asking eligible individuals to make an appointment to give blood or platelets today.”
While serving local hospitals is the first priority, the Red Cross can move blood products to where they’re needed most. This allows donors throughout the country to contribute to the national blood supply and potentially help patients locally and in storm-affected areas.
While all blood types are urgently needed, there is a more critical need for the following blood and donation types right now:
• Platelets: The clotting portion of blood primarily given to cancer patients during treatment and always in great demand.
• Type O negative: The blood type that can be transfused to almost everyone and is what doctors reach for in trauma situations.
• Type B negative: The blood type that can be transfused to type B Rh-positive and negative patients.
• Type AB: The plasma type that can be transfused to almost everyone and can be donated through a platelet or plasma donation, where available, or during a regular blood donation.
How to help
Eligible donors can find a blood or platelet donation opportunity and schedule an appointment to donate by using the free Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Donation appointments and completion of a RapidPass are encouraged to help speed up the donation process. RapidPass lets donors complete the pre-donation reading and answer the health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, by visiting redcrossblood.org/rapidpass from the convenience of a mobile device or computer, or through the Blood Donor App.
Who blood donations help
Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood — a need that is all too real for Heather Hrouda and her family. Hrouda was 25 weeks pregnant with her fourth child when she began bleeding. Hrouda hemorrhaged during an emergency Caesarean section surgery. She received 14 units of blood and seven units of plasma before she and her newborn son, Rusher, were flown to a nearby hospital. There, she received additional transfusions, and Rusher was moved to the neonatal intensive care unit, where he also received a blood transfusion to increase his red blood cell count, according to the release.
“My family and I are so thankful for all the blood donors,” Hrouda said in a statement. “It is safe to say that without their time and donations, Rusher and I would not be here today. Because of donors, I get to watch my kids grow up and become the adults they dream of being.”
The Hroudas are just two examples of the many patients who depend on blood and platelet donors. Accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and patients receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease may all require blood to save their lives. The Red Cross collects more than 13,000 blood donations every day for patients at approximately 2,600 hospitals across the country.