Constantly in need of blood donations, blood banks face unique circumstances in light of the fluid nature of today’s society that’s always on the move.
Supplying the area’s hospitals with their ever-present need for blood of all types, the American Red Cross does more than its fair share of blood drives to fill the coffers of hospital blood banks. Though certain times of the year pose greater stress on blood supplies when our society gears up to hit the road.
With summer and winter months most commonly associated with scholastic breaks — May through August, December and January — Red Cross officials prepare for a decrease in their normally steady supply of blood, said Regina Raccuglia, Tennessee Valley Blood Services Region communications manager.
“We really rely on the students to come and donate, and when students leave that’s when we see the supply wane,” Raccuglia said. “That’s generally when we really turn to the media to raise awareness of our growing need.”
Exacerbated by the lack of student donors, many of those months fall along the same seasonal patterns as severe weather, especially in the western Kentucky area. Not only are there the inherent dangers associated with severe thunderstorms, snow storms keep people from venturing outside, much less going to a blood donor clinic, said Tim Ryerson, CEO of the Tennessee Valley Blood Services Region.
“Each and every day this region has to collect an ‘X’ amount of units to process enough blood to get it to our hospitals,” Ryerson said. “It tends to be rougher to collect during these times, though hospitals need this on a daily setting.”
Due to the networked nature of the Red Cross, a shortage in this region could be made up for with blood from neighboring regions, but in the case of a major shortage, hospitals would begin looking to necessary measures. Judy Holloway, Western Baptist Hospital blood bank supervisor, said immediate rationing of blood would take effect.
“We would need to reserve our supply for those surgeries that were emergent or could not be delayed,” Holloway said. “Another option would be to ration the blood by asking physicians if they could transfuse less.”
As opposed to a physician ordering two units of blood for transfusion, the physician might deem it necessary to use only one unit at the time, until a second might be made available, Holloway said.
Not only do the scholastic breaks preoccupy families that normally would be donors, the travel in and of itself can eliminate a person as an eligible donor. Currently people 17 and older can donate whole blood once every 56 days, though a spring break locale outside of the nation could compromise your donor status.
People traveling in a region where malaria was found must wait one year, while someone living in a region afflicted by the disease must wait three years.
People who spent long periods in an area with mad cow disease cannot donate at all. And someone who has been to Iraq must wait one year for fear of Leishmaniasis, a disease spread by the bite of the female sandfly, according to the Red Cross website.
“The eligible population has declined over the years due to traveling outside of the country and there are more restrictions that makes people ineligible over the course of a year,” Ryerson said.
With an aging population, Ryerson said the increased demand for blood donations necessitates donors on a regular basis. As the months start warming up, Raccuglia said to expect more blood drives in the area to prepare for the summer slump and encouraged people to consider donating the lifesaving gift.
Call Will Pinkston, a Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.