Weather creates shortage in blood supplies

PARKERSBURG – Inclement weather through the region in the past several months has impacted scheduled blood drives and may hit the blood supply, an official said.

“With the more severe winter weather we have been experiencing, we have had a large number of blood drive cancellations and blood drives ending early,” said Cheryl L. Gergely, supervisor of communications for the Greater Alleghenies Region of the American Red Cross.

The smaller number and shorter length of the blood drives have caused officials with the blood services to be concerned with the blood supply.

“We have been very lucky that even though we have had to cancel more than half of the blood drives scheduled throughout the region since the beginning of the year, our blood supply remains adequate for the need,” Gergely said.

Since Jan. 1, more than 1,500 blood drives across the country have been canceled, which makes 2014 the worst year in recent history for blood and platelet collection, Gergely said.

“This year is the worst I have seen, in terms of cancellations,” she said. “The weather has been completely uncooperative.”

The fact so many donation drives have been forfeit because of the season’s extreme weather has also led to the loss of an estimated 50,000 units of blood and blood products, including platelets.

“That is a huge amount of blood and blood products that could help a lot of people and save lives,” Gergely said.

The winter months typically mean a lower supply of blood products as donor turnout decreases. This trend begins with the holiday season with activities, school and workplace vacations and inclement weather and outbreaks of cold and flu viruses. The lower donor turnout can lead to scarce blood supplies for those in need.

“Regardless of the season, surgeries still occur, accidents happen and people still need blood while they are being treated for cancer or other medical treatments that require blood transfusions,” Gergely said.

Donors with all blood types are needed, especially type O negative as well as A negative and B negative, which are always in high demand.

Red Cross officials said type O negative donors can make the difference between an adequate blood supply and a shortage because this blood type is universal and can be transfused to patients with any blood type. Because of this, it is most readily given to patients in emergency and trauma situations.

The Red Cross closely monitors national and local blood supplies to ensure donations are keeping pace with hospital need for blood products to meet ongoing and emergency patient care.

To be eligible to donate blood, individuals must be at least 17 years old (16-year-olds may donate with signed parental permission), weigh 110 pounds, be in general good health and not have donated blood in the last 56 days, according to the American Red Cross.

The regular hours of the Keystone Donor Center, located at 3210 Dudley Ave., are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Friday.

For questions on who is eligible to donate call 1-800-Give Life or visit www.redcrosslife.org.

For more information on scheduled blood drives or to schedule a blood donation, call 304-865-0881.