National blood shortage: Red Cross urges blood, platelet donors to give now

Local News

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) – January is recognized as National Blood Donor Month and the American Red Cross needs your help to replenish their blood supply.

Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood, according to the American Red Cross. Unfortunately, for the past nine months, Red Cross organizations across the globe have been warning of a critical shortage of type O negative blood.

The winter season is also filled with hurdles to collect the necessary blood amounts to supply hospitals. Seasonal illnesses, colder weather, school closings, and holidays are all contributing factors to why local blood drives are having such a hard time.

“We are less than three days supply of O blood, which is the universal blood. So, if a patient comes into the emergency room and they need blood immediately when they don’t have time to check the blood type, that’s the blood that they’re getting,” says Jackie Grant, Executive Director for the American Red Cross Roanoke-New River Valley Chapter.”

The Red Cross also tends to see a decrease in platelet donations.

“A lot of people don’t think about platelet donations because it takes a little bit longer. Obviously, it’s about a three hour time. But platelets are so important for cancer patients, for people going through major surgeries, for burn victims, where they’re really just extracting that liquid gold from your blood, which is the yellow platelets,” says Grant.

In January 2019, the Red Cross collected more than 27,000 fewer blood and platelet donations the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s than needed to sustain a sufficient blood supply. The donation shortfall prompted the organization to issue an emergency call for blood and platelet donors to prevent a blood shortage from continuing throughout winter and affecting patient care.

Grant says blood donations are important now more than ever.

“Having that volunteer donation is going to save a life, and that’s what people need to think about. They may be a little worried about the needle stick or not feeling well, but it only takes a few minutes and it’s saving a life which is so important and something you can really be a hero about,” says Grant.

Blood drives happening in our region include the following:

  • Roanoke Blood Donation Center at 352 Church Avenue SW is open every day.
  • Salem Blood Donation Center at 131 Electric Road is open Saturdays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays.
  • Radford University Carilion at 101 Elm Ave. SE will host a drive from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31.
  • Rosalind Hills Baptist Church at 2711 Laburnum Ave. SW will host a drive from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1.
  • Fort Lewis Christian Church at 2931 West Main St. in Salem will host a drive from 1 to 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 3
  • Carilion Institute for Orthopaedics and Neurosciences at 2331 Franklin Rd SW will host a drive from 12 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6.

For more information on how you can help, click here.


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