Emergency need for life-saving blood donations

Published 7:12 pm Friday, July 14, 2017

The American Red Cross is urging Beaufort County residents to roll up their sleeves and save a life this summer season.

“When it gets warm outside, in a sense, we have to brace ourselves for a blood shortage,” said Bernadette Jay, external communications manager for the Appalachian and Mid-Atlantic blood services region.

Jay said the summer season is historically the Red Cross’ slowest time for blood donations, and this summer has followed suit. In May and June, the American Red Cross held many blood drives throughout Beaufort County, hoping to avoid an emergency shortage later this summer.

“In May and June across the country, we had 61,000 fewer donations. In our area we had 16,000 fewer, which kind of contributed to the 61,000 donor decrease,” Jay said.

However, donations fell short again, and the Red Cross issued an announcement asking for blood and platelet donations last week.

“We try to have a five-day blood supply on hand for emergency patients, and right now we have less than that, and that’s what constitutes an emergency,” Jay said.

She said that it’s the Red Cross’ responsibility to make certain that blood is always readily available to patients in need. The only way to do that is to encourage residents to come out to blood drives and donate.

“As fast as the donations are coming in, they are also going out,” Jay said.

The Red Cross aims to collect 500-600 units of blood every day, and the organization has fallen short of those numbers this summer. That’s equivalent to the entire organization not collecting any blood for about three days, according to Jay.

Hospitals depend on the Red Cross for blood, and when there is a shortage, it could spell disaster for patients. Jay said it thankfully hasn’t gotten to the point of halting surgeries, and she hopes it never gets to that point.

Donating blood can truly be a life-saving act of bravery, according to Jay. She said the pinch of the needle is minuscule when compared to what the patient receiving the blood is possibly enduring.

“When you get the text that says, ‘Your blood is on the way to help someone,’ there is nothing that can compare to that feeling. You just helped someone spend more time with their loved ones, spend another holiday with their family,” Jay said.

Blood donations collected at local blood drives meet local needs first, and any surplus is transported to other hospitals in the region, according to Jay.

The Red Cross will host two blood drives Monday: one at Smyrna Free Will Baptist Church, 154 Flat Swamp Road, from 3-7 p.m.; the other at the Turnage Theatre, 150 W. Main St., from 3-7 p.m., sponsored by Washington (noon) Rotary.