Red Cross Facing ‘Critical’ Blood Shortage

American Red Cross collections staff member Cherrelle Simon collects a blood donation from Clint Kraft, who says that he gives blood because his wife suffers from a rare disease.  (Amanda Romney / American Red Cross) American Red Cross collections staff member Cherrelle Simon collects a blood donation from Clint Kraft, who says that he gives blood because his wife suffers from a rare disease. (Amanda Romney / American Red Cross)

The American Red Cross is facing a “critical summer blood shortage,” according to a press release from the nonprofit organization.

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“Blood donations are being distributed to hospitals as fast as donations are coming in, which could lead to delays in patient care,” said Laurie Nehring, American Red Cross communications program director. “We are doing everything we can to prevent that from happening.”

Earlier this month the Red Cross issued an emergency call for donations after receiving nearly 61,000 fewer donations than needed in May and June. The shortfall was equivalent to the organization not receiving any blood donations for more than four days, according to a press release.

“Blood donations often decline during the summer months when donors are vacationing and schools are out of session,” said Celena Roldan, chief executive officer of the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois, in a statement.

Donated blood may be used to help accident victims, surgery patients, organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease, according to the Red Cross. 

Although the call to action resulted in a 30-percent increase in donation appointments, the organization still needs more donations to meet patient needs and replenish the blood supply.

“Right now, the Red Cross has less than a five-day blood supply on hand. We strive to keep a five-day supply on hand at all times to meet the needs of patients every day and be prepared for emergencies that would require significant volumes of donated blood products,” Nehring said.

“The blood supply fluctuates as donations come in and go out to help hospital patients every day of the week, and local blood supplies are similarly affected by fewer donations than what’s needed.”

The Red Cross supplies about 40 percent of the country’s blood supply each year, according to Nehring. To keep up with demand, the Red Cross collects an average of 14,000 donations every day. In the Red Cross Heart of America Blood Services Region, which covers 55 counties in Illinois (including Chicago), an average of 253 donations are needed each day to keep up with demand.

“It’s important to remember that blood is perishable and cannot be stockpiled in advance, but the Red Cross blood supply can be replenished when generous volunteers roll up a sleeve to give,” Nehring said. “We are working with our volunteer blood drive coordinators, generous donors and dedicated staff to do everything we can to overcome this blood emergency.”

On Wednesday, the Brookfield Zoo is hosting its third annual blood drive. All who donate at the zoo’s event will receive a $10 Visa gift card, a cookout and free general admission to the zoo for one adult and up to two children, along with free parking (walk-in donors will receive a ticket for free general admission on a return visit).

Individuals who donate through Aug. 31 will receive a $5 Target eGiftCard. In order to donate, individuals must be at least 17 years old, be in general good health and feeling well. For more information about donation eligibility and to find a blood drive, visit the Red Cross website.

Last year in the Heart of America Blood Services region, approximately 99,659 pints of red blood cells and more than 99,659 units of platelets were donated.

“These donation help to ensure that blood products are available for patients in more than 39 hospitals throughout the Heart of America Region, as well as about 2,600 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country,” Nehring said. 

Follow Kristen Thometz on Twitter: @kristenthometz

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