The American Red Cross is asking eligible blood donors to help restock its shelves after severe winter weather slammed much of the Southeast and East Coast mid-February.
From when the storm began on Feb. 11 until it began to dwindle on Feb. 17, winter weather forced the cancellation of almost 400 blood drives from Alabama to Maine, resulting in about 13,500 uncollected units of blood and platelets. Prior to the mid-month storm, severe weather throughout January and into February had already forced the cancellation of Red Cross blood drives from coast to coast.
In terms of nationwide impact, from Jan. 2 through Feb. 17, a total of nearly 1,500 Red Cross blood drives in 34 states and Washington, D.C. have been canceled, resulting in about 50,000 uncollected blood and platelet donations. These cancellations are the equivalent of the Red Cross having to shut down its national operations for more than three full days in just a six-week period. 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.
BLOOD AND PLATELET DONORS NEEDED All blood types are needed to help ensure a sufficient blood supply is available for patients. There is currently 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 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.