Blood donors needed: Summertime schedules sap Triangle supply

08/07/2014 11:44 AM

08/07/2014 11:45 AM

The American Red Cross and Rex Medical Center are facing a shortage of blood this summer and are in urgent need of donations.

The Red Cross is currently down 8 percent of the 1,000 pints it needs, and Rex is sitting at 60 percent capacity. Emilie Sanders Watson, donor services coordinator at Rex, said regular donors are harder to get in touch with during the summer.

“Blood donors are amazing people. When you tell them there’s a shortage they come,” Watson said. “It just gets harder to reach them because they’re off in so many different directions.”

A deficit of blood donations usually occurs this time of the year, with regular donors vacationing and high schools and universities – donation hotspots – not in session. Donors aged 17 to 21 account for 20 percent of Rex’s annual blood donations.

“It makes a big impact on the amount of blood we’re able to collect,” said Lu Esposito, regional communications officer for The Red Cross. “Those high school and college drives are really huge for us.”

Elon University student Courtney Vaughn has donated blood twice, both times at campus blood drives.

“Location convenience is a huge reason why I give blood at Elon,” said Vaughn, who is from Sykesville, Md. “Considering the donor location is right on campus, it is really easy in between classes to stop by, give a pint, eat a quick snack and keep moving.”

Both the Red Cross and Rex stressed the importance of O negative blood, which is compatible with anyone who has a different blood type, but all blood types are needed.

“It’s really important to have blood on the shelves from diverse populations for when someone needs a transfusion,” Esposito said. “We’ve not been in the situation yet, but the last thing you want is for someone to need blood and it not be there.”

To get word out about the needed donations, Rex and the Red Cross have been using social media and contacting business and church groups.

In addition, the Red Cross has started the “100 Days of Summer,” a campaign that aims to get word out about needed donations by having participants use the hashtag #chooseyourday when they donate.

Wes Maxwell, 35, is one of the donors who participates whenever the Red Cross gives him a call. Maxwell has been giving blood regularly since he became eligible about a year ago after twice serving in Afghanistan with the Air Force.

“Once I became eligible again I began doing it consistently,” Maxwell said. “Whenever they ask for donations, I make an appointment and go.”

Platelets

Beyond the summer shortage of blood, both the Red Cross and Rex say they have chronic shortage of platelets, blood cells that stop bleeding.

The process of extracting platelets from a donor takes longer than a normal blood donation – usually an hour and a half to two hours – and a single platelet donation must be used within five days.

“They’re used by cancer patients and burn victims,” Watson said. “We have a lot of patients using it, but there is a smaller pool of people donating them to choose to from.”

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