Richland Township—Winter storms and unseasonably cold weather have forced the cancellation of a number of blood drives and lowered donor turnout throughout the region, American Red Cross officials reported.
“Since the start of January we’re down about 8,000 blood donations,” said Marianne Spampinato, a Red Cross regional communications manager. “That’s a significant loss for us.”
The Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region collection sites serve patients at more than 90 hospitals in 100 counties in parts of Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, Spampinato said.
Regionally, the Red Cross needs to collect more than 1,200 blood and platelet donations each weekday to meet patient needs. The losses total nearly 30 percent of the goals.
“Seventy percent may be a passing grade in some fields, but not in blood collections where working to ensure sufficient blood supplies for patients in need can be a matter of life and death,” region Chief Executive Officer John Hagins said.
“Additional blood donors of all blood types are needed, with types O negative, A negative and B negative in shortest supply.”
People are encouraged to donate whole blood, plasma, platelets or try a double red blood cell donation, Spampinato said.
The double red cell donations take longer but a single donation can garner up to three doses of blood for medical procedures that can include surgery and cancer treatment.
“Typically if we have to pull platelets from whole blood we need to pool six to eight donors. It is far better for the patient to receive products from a single donor, if possible,” Spampinato said.
Herbert Bray, 65, of Johnstown, was donating through the double red blood cell process at the blood services center located at 250 Jari Drive, in Richland Township, on Friday.
Bray, who works as a real-bearded Santa Claus during the holidays, was relaxing next to the apheresis machine collecting the red blood cells.
The machine collects the blood cells but returns most of the plasma and platelets to the donor.
“My wife encouraged me to do it, not that it requires much encouragement,” Bray said. “I had a bad experience one time in my life, but then I did it again and I found out it was a pretty good thing.”
Bray’s wife Donna is the blood bank manager at Memorial Medical Center and told him about the double red blood cell donation.
“There’s one advantage to it. You only have to go back every 112 days,” he said.
Bray is one of the rare donors who maximizes his ability to give the life-saving products. While approximately 38 percent of the public is eligible to donate blood, only about 8 percent of those donate blood each year, Spampinato said.
Approximately 3 percent of the entire U.S. population donates at least once per year, she said.
New donors and returning donors alike are needed to make goals during the ongoing winter weather, which is showing no signs of abating.
“We lost four drives on Friday with the cold and snow,” Spampinato said. “That’s 165 units. And we’re keeping our eyes on another storm on Tuesday and Wednesday. We’ll see how that goes.”