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Lingering winter leads to blood supply shortage

It is no secret that this winter has been particularly rough in terms of winter storms and temperatures; its effects however are having a surprisingly strong impact on necessary blood donations.

“When severe winter weather struck earlier this year, [it] forced the cancellation of about 1,500 blood drives across the country. This resulted in over 50,000 uncollected blood and platelet donations,” Ben Corey, program manager in communications at the Red Cross Heart of America Blood Services Region, based in Peoria, said.

Despite the winter weather having a negative effect on the donations collected by the Red Cross this winter, donors of all blood types continue to be needed, Corey explained.

“Winter poses a challenge to blood collection because seasonal issues such as holiday vacations and inclement weather can impact availability to give,” Corey said. “However, the need for blood is constant.”

The importance of blood donations is apparent.

Although Student Health Services does not use donated blood at their facility, Jean Swearingen, ISU medical director explained a shortage of blood can have a real impact on the medical field as a whole.

“A shortage can impact individuals who are sustaining blood loss, those with cancers, disorders of blood cell or platelet productions, hemophilia and a number of other conditions. Not having a sufficient amount of blood can cause delays in the patients’ treatments,” Swearingen said.

Blood is a perishable product; which makes a consistent flow of donations critical to having enough. Blood has a shelf life of 42 days, and platelets of only five days, Corey said.

High school and college blood drives account for nearly 20 percent of all donations during the school year, Corey said.

“Students are vital in ensuring a sufficient blood supply for our country,” he added.

The Red Cross must collect about 15,000 pints of blood everyday to meet the needs of patients at about 2,700 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country, Corey explained.

“Just one donation can help save up to three lives … You never know if you or a loved one may need a lifesaving transfusion one day,” he added.

In order to donate you must weigh at least 110 pounds and be in general good health, Corey said.

“[If you want to donate] it is a good idea to be well rested and to be hydrated. Also, be sure to eat regularly the day of donation,” Swearingen said.

Swearingen also added it is medically safe to donate blood about every 60 days, plasma once a month and platelets every one or two weeks.

(MCT Photo) Due to the harsh winter this season, the blood donations have been at a record low. Blood drives were cancelled because of dangerous weather conditions, resulting in 50,000 donations that were uncollected.

(MCT Photo)
Due to the harsh winter this season, the blood donations have been at a record low. Blood drives were cancelled because of dangerous weather conditions, resulting in 50,000 donations that were uncollected.

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