Emergency need for lifesaving blood issued

Published 8:10 pm Wednesday, August 3, 2016

With less than a five-day reserve supply on hand for emergencies and scheduled surgeries, the American Red Cross has an emergency need for blood donations.

The organization is responsible for 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply and provides blood to 2,600 hospital and blood transfusion centers across the nation, according to Bernadette Jay, with the American Red Cross. The Red Cross must collect 14,000 units of blood each day to keep up — in the United States, 44,000 units of blood are used each day.

In the Washington and Greenville areas, the organization must collect 500-600 units per day to keep up with the demand for blood. Every two seconds, someone needs blood, Jay said.

Jay said the Red Cross tries to keep a five-day supply of blood on hand for scheduled surgeries and unforeseen emergencies, but as of now, there is not even that much in reserve.

“That’s when we start to sound the bells and alert people that we need donations,” Jay said. “Of course, we understand that people don’t think about blood donations all the time, but the families and patients that need it really depend on donations.”

Jay said donations dropping during the summer months is common, because people are on vacation, and schools and universities where many blood drives are hosted are not session. But the need for blood certainly doesn’t slow down, Jay said.
A typical donation is one unit of blood, meaning 500-600 donations are needed per day in the Washington, Greenville and surrounding areas. One donation could potentially save up to three lives, according to Jay.

Only around 38 percent of the population is eligible to donate blood, she said. The other 62 percent of the population is unable to donate for various reasons, including illnesses that make blood unusable, medications that make donors unable to donate or because of international travel that keeps people from donating for one year.

Only 8 percent of the 38 percent actually donate blood, which makes for a limited amount of donations. Jay said many people have the misconception that the demand isn’t great because there are blood substitutes, which is simply untrue. Blood is also perishable and can only be stored for 42 days before it is unusable.

“Blood is perishable, and it must be donated,” Jay said. “That’s the only way to keep up with demand and support the hospitals and centers we partner with. The only way to collect it is for people to roll up their sleeves and get involved and donate.”

Jay said those who cannot donate can still get involved by volunteering, whether it be through driving those who are eligible to give blood, transporting blood once it is collected or other ways. People can also help by telling their friends, family and coworkers about the need for blood, she said.

From now until Aug. 31, those donating blood will be given a $5 coupon to Amazon.com, according to Jay. Those who donate blood are also sent a message when their blood is on the way to help someone, a component of the donation process that really hits home with many people, Jay said.

There are several opportunities to donate blood in Beaufort County over the month of August. See the sidebar or visit www.redcrossblood.org and type in the zip code.