Urgent need for blood donations due to prolonged winter

News-DemocratFebruary 26, 2014 

Winter storms and freezing temperatures canceled and lowered turnout for blood drives, creating an urgent need for blood and platelet donations in the metro-east and greater St. Louis area.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 30 drives in Southern Illinois and St. Louis were canceled by Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center, the regional organization that provides donated blood to hospitals in the metro-east and St. Louis.

"It lowers the turnouts; it's not just the cancellations," explained Tony Heap, of Mississippi Valley.

The American Red Cross canceled more than 50 blood drives in Illinois and Missouri since Jan. 1, resulting in a shortfall of close to 1,500 blood donations the organization expected to receive, according to spokesman Daniel Fox.

Nearly 1,500 Red Cross blood drives in 34 states were canceled, resulting in about 50,000 uncollected blood and platelet donations, Fox said.

"We're at a position where our blood products, as soon as they're coming in, they're going right out," Fox said.

"We have been able to meet hospital demands, but we want to make sure that that remains the case, and we can continue meeting that demand for the rest of the winter and into spring," Fox said.

Last week, Heap said ice canceled a few high school blood drives that resulted in the loss of about 300 expected units.

"We're still scrambling to fulfill the needs," he said. "We are, but barely."

This week, Mississippi Valley's supplies for hospitals were below the preferred level for every blood type.

"Below what we should be," Heap said. "The hospitals aren't running out, but it's a challenge every day. ... We're just running behind what we should be."

Who is qualified to give blood? Anyone age 17 and older, or a 16 year old with a parent's permission, who weighs more than 110 pounds and is in good general health.

If you would like to donate blood, check out the following to find future blood drives:

* Mississippi Valley at www.bloodcenter.org.

* Red Cross at 800-RED CROSS or redcrossblood.org.

Contact reporter Maria Hasenstab at mhasenstab@bnd.com or 618-239-2460.

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