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Red Cross issues emergency call for blood donations

by Rob Burgess - rburgess@wabashplaindealer.com

Following a difficult Fourth of July week for blood and platelet donations and ongoing challenges finding new blood donors, the American Red Cross now faces a blood shortage and has issued an emergency call for eligible individuals of all blood types to give now and prevent delays in medical care, stated a press release Tuesday.

About 450 fewer blood drives were organized by businesses and other community groups last week than during a typical week as people across the country celebrated the holiday with activities and travel. This led to about 17,000 fewer blood donations than needed for patients in a single week, causing the Red Cross to now have less than a three-day supply of most blood types available – and less than a two-day supply of type O blood – for patients. At least a five-day supply is desired.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Rodney Wilson, communications manager for Red Cross Indiana Ohio Blood Services, said the Independence Day holiday is a particular difficult time for blood reserves.

“It’s one of the most challenging weeks of the year,” he said. “Just because so many people are traveling. They’re taking vacations. We have fewer blood drives during that time frame because many of our regular places that we host don’t want to have drives that week.”

Last year, during the three-day Independence Day holiday period, 1,623 crashes occurred throughout Indiana resulting in 396 injuries and six fatalities, according to the Indiana State Police.

Wilson said these incidents can further deplete already taxed blood reserves.

“Even if there is only a slight increase in the number of accidents, traumatic injuries can use a large amount of blood very quickly and deplete the supply,” he said.

To help meet this need, the Red Cross has added about 8,000 additional appointments at blood donation centers and community blood drives over the next few weeks to accommodate more donors.

In addition to a previously-scheduled drive set for 2 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 10 at Richvalley Community Center, 56 W. Mill St., three more drives have been added in Wabash this month: The first two are on Tuesday, July 16, one from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Wabash County 4-H Fairgrounds, 660 Gillen Ave., and the second from noon to 6 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 110 N. Cass St. A third newly-scheduled drive is planned for Tuesday, July 30, from 2 to 6:30 p.m. at the Wabash County YMCA, 500 S. Cass St.

In June, the Red Cross launched the Missing Types campaign to encourage donors – especially new donors and those who have not donated in the past years – to give blood or platelets during the challenging summer months. Through the campaign, the letters A, B and O – letters that make up the main blood groups – disappeared from popular brands to symbolize what happens when blood goes missing from hospital shelves during blood shortages.

Despite an encouraging response to the campaign, blood donations still fell short of expectations in June, resulting in more than 24,000 fewer donations than needed and causing a significant draw down of the Red Cross blood supply.

“Regardless of your blood type, or even if you don’t know your blood type, now is the time to donate,” said Wilson.

Donors of all blood types, especially type O, are urged to make an appointment to donate using the Blood Donor App, at RedCrossBlood.org or by calling 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.

Those interested in hosting a blood drive can learn more and sign up to sponsor a drive this summer by visiting RedCrossBlood.org/HostADrive.