“Approximately 97% of Americans know someone who received blood whether people realize it or not.”
This statistic was stated by Rodney Wilson, communications manager for Red Cross Indiana Ohio Blood services.
In a press release from the American Red Cross Tuesday, there is fewer than a three-day supply of most blood types available for Hoosiers currently. There is fewer than a two-day supply of O blood. Wilson said he thinks this is due to holiday celebrations, but medical emergencies wait for no one.
The Red Cross supports 80 hospitals in the state of Indiana. On average, 450 Hoosiers a day need to donate blood to support those 80 hospitals. If that does not happen, the blood banks aren’t stocked to the desired capacity. If possible, the Red Cross prefers to have a five-day supply on hand.
Currently, the state concluded the month of June with about 450 fewer donations than expected. That’s more than a full day’s supply of blood. In July, Wilson said donations declined even further.
“Right now, blood donations in Indiana are about 10% lower than where we need them to be, and there is an emergency need for blood donations in Indiana, just as in the rest of the county as well,” Wilson said.
If the blood supply gets any lower, there could be some serious implications.
“When we don’t have a stable blood supply then hospitals would have to prioritize patient care,” Wilson said. “That’s means that patients with less critical needs would have to wait for transfusions while those with more serious conditions and emergency needs would take priority and would receive transfusions first.”
He said that many times, cancer patients would be waiting on certain types of transfusions, and they would have to wait if there is not enough blood. Those patients would be prioritized lower on the list of needs if there is not enough blood for each person.
There are specific requirements for those who are giving blood. A few general rules of thumb are that each donor must weigh more than 110 pounds, must be 17 years old and should be in general good health. A donor can be 16 years old if a parent signs a consent form.
“You should be in general good health, which mean that you don’t have a temperature that day, you’re feeling well, you’re not exhibiting cold or flu symptoms,” Wilson said.
Once a donor arrives at a blood drive, they meet with a person working and discuss other eligibility requirements. There are reasons why people can be ineligible. Certain medications can disqualify people from being able to donate, as well as if a donor has traveled internationally. A previous cancer diagnosis might also prevent a person from being able to donate. There are a number of things that might make you ineligible to give.
“International travel might cause you to have to wait for a short period before you can donate,” Wilson said. “It depends on what part of the world. There are certain areas like certain parts of Africa, certain parts of Central and South America, where if you have traveled there within the last 12 months, they ask you to wait until 12 months after you’ve returned.”
Wilson said that in specific areas, like those ones he mentioned, illnesses like malaria or other contagions can be latent in a person’s system without showing any symptoms but can be transmissible. It also might not appear in testing.
Most donations come from mobile blood drives that are located at people’s place of employment.
“The majority of blood comes from mobile blood drives from groups who are hosting those blood drives with us,” Wilson said. “You might see a blood drive at a church or business or school. We try to go to you, go to the donor, go where it’s convenient for you where people are already gathered.”
There are also donation centers where people can go to donate, but fewer people are likely to donate there, according to Wilson. He said people are more likely to donate when The Red Cross comes to them.
Judy Butler organizes the blood drives at Trinity United Methodist Church in Kendallville. She said there was a blood drive at the church July 5, but there was not a great turnout.
“The people that made appointments came, and there were a few walk-ins which was good,” Butler said. “But the day after the Fourth of July is not a good day to have a blood drive. We always do it on the first Friday every two months.”
Years ago, according to Butler, more than 100 people would come to donate blood. On July 5, there were only 45 people. She said generally there are approximately maybe 50-55 people who donors.
She also attributes lower attendance numbers to blood drives being more accessible.
Shannon Carpenter attends SonLight Community Church in Angola recently had a blood drive as that on Wednesday.
But in their case, 70 people donated blood and 62 units were collected.
“This is one of our bigger blood drives,” Carpenter said. “The Red Cross was running a special promotion where every donor received a Cedar Point Ticket. They do that at a few different drives over the summer. Those tend to be the largest.”
Carpenter’s husband has been a blood recipient almost 20 times, so this cause is dear to her heart.
“My husband received close to 20 blood transfusions over the course of his battle with cancer, so I always encourage people to give blood because you never know whose life you could be saving,” Carpenter said. “It might be your spouse, it might be your child, it might be your friend. It really is important to give.”
According to Carpenter, you can give every six to eight weeks. So she encourages people to be repetitive donors. She thinks that people are afraid to give because of the side effects, but if you prepare well there usually isn’t an issue.
“If you are well hydrated, get a good night’s rest and eat well before you come to donate, it’s very unlikely that you will experience any of those negative symptoms,” Carpenter said.
For more information about blood donation, go to redcrossblood.org, call 1-800-RED-CROSS or download the Blood Donor App to a mobile device.