BY ANGELINA MARTIN
When donating blood, the need is constant, and the gratification is almost instant. And during the summer, that need is even greater.
The American Red Cross often faces a critical blood shortage during the hotter months, and this year is no exception. As a result, the organization has issued an emergency call for eligible blood and platelet donors of all blood types to give now and help save countless lives.
As the largest single supplier of blood and blood products in the United States, the American Red Cross collects and processes approximately 40 percent of the country’s blood supply, distributing it to about 2,600 hospitals and transfusion centers nationwide.
In order to treat patient emergencies, including accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplants and patients receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease, the Red Cross must collect nearly 14,000 blood donations every day.
Over the course of May and June, about 61,000 fewer blood donations were given to the Red Cross, causing a significant draw down on the organization’s blood supply. The drop in donations is the equivalent of the Red Cross not collecting any blood donations for more than four days.
“It’s crucial that people donate now to meet the needs of patients every day and to be prepared for emergencies that require significant volumes of donated blood,” said Nick Gehrig, communications director for Red Cross Blood Services. “Every day, blood and platelet donors can help save lives, and right now these heroes are needed to give as soon as possible.”
Blood shortages often worsen around the Independence Day holiday, as fewer volunteer-hosted blood drives are held and many regular donors delay giving while they vacation and participate in summer activities. Nearly 700 fewer blood drives are scheduled during the Independence Day week than the weeks before and after the holiday, and more than 73 percent of blood donors indicated vacation plans this summer in a recent survey.
In early July, the Red Cross received a 30 percent increase in blood donation appointments through mid-July, but despite the improvement, blood products are still being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in.
In order to help with the summer shortage, Red Cross Manager of External Communications Christine Welch encourages those who have never donated before to do so, and community members with experience to consider hosting their own volunteer drives.
“It’s fairly easy for any business, religious entity or even a school to host a blood drive,” said Welch. “We provide them with all the materials they may need to make it a positive experience for all donors.”
Volunteer-hosted drives are provided with a local Red Cross representative to help make planning the event a breeze, as well as tools to help recruit donors.
Those interested in hosting a blood drive can call 1-800-RED-CROSS for more details, said Welch.
Locally, those who cannot host a drive but wish to donate can visit a Red Cross-owned Delta Blood Bank, which serves as the sole provider of blood for 15 area hospitals, in Stockton (2888 West March Lane), Modesto (1900 West Orangeburg Ave.), Manteca (1030 N. Main Street), Lodi (125 S. Hutchins Street) or Turlock (655 E. Hawkeye Ave.).
“It only takes an hour of your time, and it’s a really easy process,” said Welch.
To schedule an appointment to donate, use the free Blood Donor App, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS. The Red Cross has added more than 25,000 additional appointment slots at donation centers and community blood drives across the country over the next few weeks to accommodate more donors. Donation appointments and completion of a RapidPass online health history questionnaire are encouraged to help reduce the time it takes to donate.
As a special thank you, the Red Cross will be emailing $5 Target eGiftCards to those who give blood or platelets through Aug. 31.
The Red Cross will be hosting several upcoming blood drives in the area:
Aug. 9: 12:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m., Hutchins Square Community Center, 125 S. Hutchins Street in Lodi
Aug. 12: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., Stockton Baptist Church, 5480 N Highway 99 in Stockton
Aug 12: 8:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., Tracy American Legion, 1960 N. Tracy Blvd. in Tracy
Aug. 14: 12 p.m. – 6 p.m., Oakdale Fire Station #28, 325 E. G Street in Oakdale
Aug. 14: 1 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., Manteca Blood Donation Center, 1030 N. Main Street in Manteca
Aug. 15: 2 p.m. – 7 p.m., Immanuel Christian Reformed Church, 517 Orange Ave. in Ripon
Aug. 15: 2 p.m. – 7 p.m., Patterson Fire Station 2, 1950 Keystone Pacific Pkwy. in Patterson