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Posted January 30, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Red Cross hopes to make up for canceled blood drives

By Kim Walter

After the wintry weather mix last week, the American Red Cross is urging community members to make up for lost blood donations.

From Thursday through Saturday last week, the Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region had to cancel 11 scheduled drives in four out of the six states serviced by the area. Additionally, seven appointment locations closed early, according to Marianne Spampinato, communications manager for the region.

"Between the donor flow and worsening weather, it just made sense to get our staff home," she said.

The Red Cross measures blood donation success through setting collection goals for each location, and monitoring operational efficiency.

Spampinato said from Jan. 1 to Jan. 20, the operational efficiency for the region was, on average, 91 percent out of 100. However, the average from Monday through Friday of last week showed a 10 percent decrease in operational efficiency.

The cancellations, along with early closings and fewer donor turnout, represent approximately a day's worth of blood donations that went uncollected.

Now that the weather has picked back up, the Red Cross is asking people to take a little over an hour out of their day to donate blood this week.

John Hagins, CEO of the Greater Alleghenies Region, stated in a press release that while donors of all blood types are needed, O negative and B negative types are particularly needed "to meet patient need."

In the release, Hagins explained that type O negative blood is the universal blood type, and is always in high demand because "it can be transfused to patients with any blood type, especially in emergency situations, such as trauma cases."

He added that platelet donors are also needed.

"Platelet products must be transfused within five days of donation, so after a winter storm, supplies are often tight," he stated. "Yet many patients with leukemia, lymphoma and other illnesses require platelet transfusions on a regular basis."

Spampinato noted that the recent widespread flu epidemic also has impacted the number of donors scheduling and canceling appointments.

"We don't have any hard statistics for how it's directly affecting us," she said. "But we know through trying to track down people signed up to donate and follow up calls that people are sick."

Steps can be taken by eligible blood donors to avoid the flu, she added. The flu can be fought through the donation of blood as well, and Spampinato had a few reminders concerning the illness.

"If you've got the flu shot, you can absolutely give blood," she said. "Your potential to give blood won't decrease, just like the likelihood of you getting the flu after donating won't increase."

There's no waiting period to donate blood after receiving the flu vaccine, as long as the donor is feeling healthy the day of donation. However, if someone has had the flu or has experienced flu-like symptoms, he or she should not donate blood until 24 hours after symptoms have ceased.

Only a fraction of the 38 percent of the public eligible to donate blood actually gives each year, according to a Red Cross release. Hagins urged area residents to donate this week.

"Everyday in our country, approximately 44,000 units of blood are needed in hospitals to help treat trauma victims, surgery patients, organ transplant patients, premature babies and patients receiving treatment for cancer and other diseases," he stated in the release.

For a list of upcoming blood drives open to the public or to schedule an appointment, go to redcrossblood.org/greateralleghenies.

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com

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