Weather draining blood supplies

WINTER WEATHER has had more of an effect on the Ohio Valley than just making the roadways treacherous for daily commutes. The American Red Cross has also felt the impact of the many winter storms that have hit the Valley in recent weeks.

Because of the myriad problems the weather has caused as of late, the Red Cross was forced to cancel approximately 770 blood drives across the nation in the month of January, which has resulted in over 25,000 blood and platelet donations that have gone uncollected.

Just in the Greater Alleghenies Blood Service Region, which covers a six state area, including Wheeling and Belmont County, 40 blood drives were canceled, resulting in approximately 1,000 uncollected donations.

Currently, the Red Cross has an urgent need for donors with O positive, O negative, A negative and B negative blood types, but donors of other types are encouraged to make an appointment and donate as well.

“It’s always a concern when we’re unable to collect the blood we need,” Cheryl Gergely, Communications Manager of the Greater Alleghenies Blood Service Region, said. “We’re constantly urging people to come in and donate.”

Gergely also wanted to stress that the blood coming from donors in our area is made available to hospitals in our area first. Thus, making a donation directly affects the people of the Ohio Valley who require blood transfusions and other, similar treatments.

“First, the blood goes to supply the local hospitals with which the Red Cross has agreements,” Gergely said. “Any extra samples go to other hospitals. This process can also work in reverse, but our first priority is always our local hospitals.”

Many of the upcoming local blood drives will be set up for double red cell collections in addition to standard donations.

Normally when a person donates blood, they give red blood cells, platelets and plasma. Double red cell donations, however, use an apheresis machine, which separates the red blood cells from the other materials and enables the donor to give twice as many red blood cells while keeping all of the platelets and plasma.

Gergely states that double red cell donations do have different requirements than regular donations, but all donors are urged to see if they meet the criteria to give a little extra if possible.

Contrary to popular belief, donors cannot simply go to a hospital to make their donations. “Hospitals are not set up to accept blood donations,” Gergely stated.

To make an appointment with the American Red Cross, donors can call 1-800-RED-CROSS or visit www.redcrossblood.org. The website will provide everything donors need to know, including driving directions, based on the ZIP code they enter.

“We want to make sure that people realize that blood donations are needed,” Gergely stated.

Local donors are encouraged to make an appointment at one of the following drives:

  • Feb. 24, March 3 and March 10 at OVMC in Wheeling
  • Feb. 26 at Wheeling Jesuit University
  • March 4 at St. Clairsville High School
  • March 6 at Belmont Career Center in St. Clairsville

Please check www.redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS for a full list of upcoming local drives.

Scott can be reached at jscott@timesleaderonline.com.