By Ethan Colbert
The American Red Cross is making an urgent call for blood and platelet donations of all blood types to help combat a blood shortage within the United States.
According to Wilma McGlothlin, an Accounts Manager with the American Red Cross, the nation’s blood shortage is caused by a combination of factors.
“In some areas of the country, the winter weather has caused blood drives to be cancelled or has impacted donor’s ability to reach the blood drive safely,” McGlothlin said in a telephone interview. “In other areas, the flu outbreak is impacting our blood drives. We are seeing in Missouri and in Illinois that during a lot of our blood drives, individuals with scheduled appointments are no shows. When we call them, it is because they are sick with the flu, or a sinus infection, or bronchitis.”
According to one report from the Associated Press, due to hazardous weather conditions more than 500 blood drives throughout the country have been cancelled since January 1.
Cancelled blood drives and missed appointments have had a significant impact on the American Red Cross’ ability to supply blood to area hospitals, including Pike County Memorial Hospital in Louisiana.
“The American Red Cross generally likes to have 125,000 units of blood on the shelf daily,” McGlothlin said in her interview. She said twice this year the number of available units has dropped to below 70,000 units.
Such low numbers led the Red Cross to issue an emergency appeal last month, according to McGlothlin.
“We are asking all healthy individuals to make an appointment to donate blood,” McGlothlin said. The Red Cross has also been working to schedule more blood drives in the region, including one at the First United Methodist Church of Bowling Green on Tuesday, February 6.
The blood drive will continue until 6:30 p.m.
According to Carolyn Shaw, one of the organizers of the blood drive at the Methodist Church, they are hoping to have between 40 to 60 people be successful blood donors.
Successful blood donors are individuals who complete the health history and mini physical questionnaire, who present a valid photo identification card, and who donate a full unit of blood.
“We have so many people who are repeat givers, but we need young people to become blood donors,” Shaw said in a telephone interview. To help reach a wide range of potential blood donors, Shaw said that she and other church members call through the church’s membership directory, post flyers throughout the community, and use social media platforms such as Facebook to reach potential donors.
The next scheduled blood drive in the region is slated for Thursday, February 8, at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Hannibal. The blood drive in Hannibal is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
On Friday, the Red Cross will be at the Lincoln County Fire Protection District facility on East Cherry Street in Troy for a blood drive. The blood drive will go from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m.
From 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 27, the Millwood Knights of Columbus will host a Red Cross Blood Drive.
On March 5, the Red Cross will be in Eolia for a blood drive at the Eolia Volunteer Fire Department. The bloodmobile will be in Eolia from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
On March 13, the bloodmobile will be in Wellsville from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Wellsville-Middletown High School.
On March 14, the Red Cross will be at Bowling Green High School from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. for a blood drive.
On March 15, the Red Cross will be at Van-Far High School for a blood drive, which starts at 2:30 and ends at 7 p.m. That same day, they will also be at the VFW Hall in Troy on Hwy. J for a blood drive. The Lincoln County blood drive begins at 2 p.m. and ends at 7 p.m.
On Tuesday, March 20, a blood drive benefiting the Red Cross will be held at Hannibal-LaGrange university from noon until 5 p.m.
With so many upcoming blood drives in the northeast Missouri region, McGlothlin said she is hopeful that longtime blood donors and potential first-time blood donors will find a blood drive that fits their schedule and commit to making a blood donation.
“It is the easiest community service that you could ever do,” McGlothlin said. “Takes a little more than an hour to donate blood, but the hour you spend is an hour spent helping save up to three lives.”
For those wishing to shorten their time at a blood drive, McGlothlin recommends downloading the rapid pass on their cell phone of tablet. The rapid pass generally reduces wait times by 15 to 20 minutes.
At local blood drives, donors can generally choose to either donate whole blood or to make a “Power Red” donation.
According to McGlothlin, whole blood donors donate one pint, or one unit of blood. Meanwhile, Power Red donors use a special machine to donate two units of red blood cells during one visit. The machine, which extracts the red blood cells, returns plasma and platelets back to the donor.
McGlothlin said that while there is a need for platelets to be donated, many of the local blood drives lack the necessary equipment for platelet donations.
Those who wish to donate platelets would need to travel to St. Charles or to Chesterfield to visit Red Cross Blood Donation Centers in those communities.
To schedule an appointment with the Red Cross, visit www.redcrossblood.org, or by calling 1-800-Red Cross.