The recent onset of inclement winter weather has not only caught many Wisconsinites off-guard and hampered travel plans at times, but has also impacted the blood stores across the state, leading to a plea for help from various organizations including the Red Cross. It just so happens that the shortage has arrived just in time for “National Blood Donor” month.
According to a press release from the Red Cross, “January is National Blood Donor Month, which has been observed since 1970 with the goal of increasing blood donations during the winter – one of the most difficult times of year to collect enough blood and platelet donations to meet patient needs. In addition to winter bringing busy holiday schedules for many regular donors, severe winter weather can cancel blood drives, and seasonal illnesses, like the flu, may cause donors to be temporarily unable to give. Busy holiday schedules in November and December contributed to about 1,700 fewer blood drives held across the country, compared to the two previous months, which has resulted in about 50,000 fewer donations and reduced the blood supply.”
Todd Kulman, External Communications Manager for the Red Cross Badger-Hawkeye Blood Services Region, explains that stores may be low but can be easily replenished with the generous help of donors.
“A decline in the blood supply after the winter holidays is not uncommon, but it can be replenished when generous volunteers roll up their sleeves to help save lives,” Kulman said. “We encourage our generous donors who are eligible, as well as new donors, to make an appointment to give blood or platelets and help ensure blood products continue to be available for patients. Every two seconds a patient in the U.S. needs blood.”
Winter Storm Ashley, which dumped as much as 14 inches of snow in some areas of the state, has hit local blood banks especially hard.
According to Jill Butzin, Marketing & Communications Manager for The Community Blood Center based out of Appleton, donor cancellations from the storm has severely depleted the local blood supply.
“Because the need for blood does not slow down during inclement weather, we are reaching out to the community to help replenish our blood supply,” Butzin stated. “The safety of our donors and staff is extremely important during inclement weather. Now that travel is safe again, we ask that donors, both existing and first-time donors, make an appointment to help us restock our shelves so that patients have the life-sustaining blood products they need. The limited shelf life of blood products requires that our supplies be continually replenished.”
As Butzin adds, red blood cells are good for 42 days after collection and platelets are good for 5 days after collection. Up to three patients can be helped by a whole blood donation and 1 out of every 7 people entering a hospital will need blood. Uses of donated blood include transfusions for cancer patients, trauma patients, organ transplants and various surgeries, including cardiac surgeries.