TOPEKA — The American Red Cross is calling on all eligible donors to step up, roll up a sleeve and give blood or platelets as soon as possible.
The Red Cross says its blood supply has reached emergency levels, with 50,000 fewer donations than expected in June. This shortfall leaves about half the readily available blood products on hand today than at this time last year.
“There is always the chance that a physician could postpone an elective surgery if the needed blood products aren’t readily available,” said Dr. Richard Benjamin, chief medical officer for the American Red Cross. “In a worst case scenario, a physician may have to forego performing a more serious procedure for a patient because of a shortage of blood. We need to do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t get to that point.”
Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs a blood transfusion. All blood types are currently needed -- especially O positive, O negative, B negative and A negative in order to meet patient demand this summer. Type O negative is the universal blood type and can be transfused to anyone who needs blood. It’s the blood type doctors turn to first in an emergency situation when there is no time to match a patient’s blood type.
An unseasonably early start to summer weather may be a contributing factor to this year’s decrease in donations. Many regular donors got an early start on summer activities and aren’t taking time to give blood or platelets. In addition, this year’s mid-week Independence Day holiday has reduced the number of scheduled Red Cross blood drives. Many sponsors, especially businesses, are unable to host drives because employees are taking extended vacations.
Every day, the Red Cross must collect more than 17,000 pints of blood for patients at more than 3,000 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country. Donors are encouraged to make appointments in the coming days and weeks to help ensure that all patient blood needs can be met. Each pint of whole blood can help save more than one life.
How to Donate Blood:
Simply call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. 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 (16 with parental permission in some states), 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.