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American Red Cross staff member Julianne Wills packs platelets to be sent to a hospital.

Red Cross issues emergency call for blood donors

A donation shortfall during the winter holidays is prompting the American Red Cross to issue an emergency call for blood and platelet donors to give now to prevent a blood shortage from continuing throughout winter and affecting patient care. Franklin County citizens will have the opportunity to do so at a locally-held blood drive in February.

The Red Cross collected more than 27,000 fewer blood and platelet donations the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s than needed to sustain a sufficient blood supply. During this period, about 1,350 fewer blood drives were hosted by volunteer sponsor groups than required to meet patient needs, as busy holiday schedules kept many donors away.

“Many people might not realize blood products are perishable, and the only source of lifesaving blood for patients is volunteer blood donors,” said Cliff Numark, senior vice president of Red Cross Biomedical Services. “When donations decline – as they did around the holidays and may further decline if severe winter weather and flu season pick up – lifesaving medical treatments could be delayed.”

Right now, the Red Cross reports less than a three-day supply of most blood types on hand, well below the ideal five-day supply needed to respond to emergencies and daily hospital needs. Numark said blood products are being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in.

“We hope people can resolve to save lives now – when there is an emergency need – as well as throughout the year,” added Numark.

All eligible donors, especially platelet donors and blood donors with type O blood, are urged to make an appointment to give in the coming days to help restock the shelves for hospital patients.

For Franklin County, the ideal opportunity might be Feb. 12, when Russellville High School will be the site for a Red Cross blood drive from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For those who are unable to donate Feb. 12, eligible donors can find a blood or platelet donation opportunity and schedule an appointment to donate by using the free Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS. Volunteer blood drive hosts are also critically needed to prevent the shortage from worsening this winter.

With several weeks of winter ahead, severe winter weather poses an additional threat to an already low blood supply. Snow, ice and extreme temperatures in January and February often force hundreds of blood drive cancellations.

The Red Cross reminds donors a blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in to donate. Individuals who are 17 years of age, weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App.

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