The storm striking the Southeast and much of the East Coast has affected American Red Cross blood collections from Alabama all the way to Maine. Since it started on Feb. 11, the Red Cross has been forced to cancel about 265 blood drives, resulting in nearly 9,300 uncollected blood and platelet donations.
This latest storm follows an already rough start to 2014 for Red Cross blood collections. Severe winter weather throughout January and into February had already forced the cancellation of blood drives from coast to coast. In fact, from Jan. 2 through Feb. 10, more than 1,000 Red Cross blood drives in 34 states and Washington, D.C. had to be canceled, resulting in about 35,000 uncollected blood and platelet donations.
The extraordinary number of cancellations this year is the equivalent of the Red Cross having to shut down its national operations for more than two full days. On average, the Red Cross must collect about 15,000 units of blood every day for patients at approximately 2,700 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country. Overall, donations in January 2014 were down about 10 percent when you average typical January donations since 2011.
BLOOD AND PLATELET DONORS NEEDED All blood types are needed to help ensure a sufficient blood supply is available for patients. Those in areas unaffected by the storm are asked to make and keep an appointment to give blood or platelets this week. Those in affected areas are urged to make an appointment to give when conditions are safe to do so.
There is an urgent need for blood types O positive, O negative, A negative and B negative. Eligible donors with these blood types are strongly encouraged to make an appointment to give in the coming days. There is also an urgent need for platelet donors to make and keep appointments to give. Platelets – a key clotting component of blood often needed by cancer patients - must be transfused within five days of donation, so donations are always needed.
DOUBLE RED CELL DONATIONS Donors with blood types O positive, O negative, A negative and B negative can consider making a double red cell donation where available. Double red cell donation is done with the help of an apheresis machine which collects the red cells but returns most of the plasma and platelets to the donor. Donors need to meet slightly higher hemoglobin and body height/weight requirements in order to be able to give a double red cell donation. Double red cell donations take approximately 30 minutes longer than a whole blood donation and allow you to give two units of red cells.
HOW TO GIVE For more information about donating blood, or to make an appointment to donate blood or platelets, please visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Individuals who are at least 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and be in 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.