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Winter storms prompt call for blood donations

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POSTED: February 9, 2014 6:00 p.m.
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Blood donors may donate once every eight weeks. It takes approximately eight to 10 minutes to collect one pint of blood.

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Recent winter storms and freezing temperatures canceled many American Red Cross blood drives in the area.
As severe weather subsides, the Red Cross is asking all eligible blood and platelet donors to help offset a weather-related shortfall in donations, said Kristen Stancil, communications program manager with the American Red Cross’ Southern Blood Services Region.
“In Georgia, severe winter weather forced the cancellation of 51 Red Cross blood drives, resulting in about 2,175 fewer than expected blood and platelet donations,” she said. “Platelet donors, as well as blood donors with the most in-demand blood types — O positive and negative, A negative and B negative — are urgently needed to give blood in the days and weeks ahead to offset the shortfall.”
Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood, according to the American Red Cross website, and each donation can help save up to three lives. Fourteen Red Cross blood drives were held in Liberty County last year.
“On average, the Red Cross must collect about 15,000 units of blood every day for patients at approximately 2,700 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country,” Stancil said. “There is always a need because blood and platelets are both perishable.”
Red blood cells have a shelf life of 42 days, she added, and platelets have a shelf life of just five days, so they must be replenished constantly. Blood collected at drives and donation centers ensure there is a safe and adequate supply available for all hospital patients when and where the blood is needed. Platelet donations also are important.
Platelets can save the lives of patients with clotting problems and cancer, as well as those who undergo organ transplants and other major surgeries, such as heart bypasses, Stancil said.
Platelet and blood donations can be made at local blood drives. The whole process takes about an hour and 15 minutes, but the actual collection of one pint of blood takes eight to 10 minutes, Stancil said. At a drive, one pint of blood and several small test tubes are collected from each donor after a health history check and mini physical are completed, according to the Red Cross website.
The donations are transported to a Red Cross center, and blood tests are performed to check for HIV, hepatitis B and C, syphilis and other infectious diseases. If a test is positive, the donor will be contacted with the results.
“The number of blood donations collected in the U.S. in a year is 15.7 million, and the number of blood donors in the U.S. in a year is 9.2 million,” Stancil said. “These numbers are not only for the Red Cross.”
People frequently ask if donating is safe, she added.
“Each donor’s blood is collected through a new, sterile needle that is used once and then discarded,” she said.
A donor must wait at least eight weeks between donations of whole blood and 16 weeks between double red cell donations. Platelet donors may give every seven days up to 24 times a year. In order to donate, participants must meet certain standards.
“Individuals who are 18 years of age … weigh at least 110 pounds and in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood,” Stancil said. “High-school students and other donors 18 years of age also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.”
Three blood drives will be held in Liberty County in the next two months. The Liberty County Sheriff’s Office hosted an American Red Cross “Battle of the Badges” drive Friday at the Liberty County Justice Center. Local police departments, the sheriff’s office, firefighters and EMS workers competed to see who could recruit the most people to donate blood.
Additional information about donating, blood-donation center locations and appointment-scheduling tools can be found at www.redcrossblood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

 

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