When disaster strikes, members of the American Red Cross are there to lend a hand.
In a slight turn of the table, the non-profit organization is gearing up to prevent a catastrophe of a different sort.
With a supply of donated blood that has plummeted to unseasonably low numbers, the organization has enacted an Emergency Blood Appeal and is seeking donations.
“The need is enormous,” American Red Cross public information officer Anita Foster said in an email. “Blood can’t be manufactured. It can only be given from human beings, and it only lasts for around 50 days. The blood supply must be constantly replenished. Without it, we run the risk of losing lives because blood wasn’t available when an emergency occurred. Our mission is to ensure that won’t happen.”
The organization received 50,000 fewer donations than expected in June. That shortfall leaves the Red Cross with half the readily available blood products on hand compared to this time last year.
“We’ll need around 200 donors to give before Saturday to raise our local supply above the emergency level,” Foster said. “One donation equals one pint. Each pint of blood can save up to three human lives.”
All blood types are needed, but especially O positive, O negative, B negative and A negative, Foster said.
According to Linda Scardis, a Carter BloodCare consultant, shortages of all blood types happen during the summer and winter holidays. And as donations go down, needs go up.
“With people boating and traveling more in the summer, there’s more of a risk for accidents,” she said. “People also schedule elective surgeries in the summer months when things have slowed down. But one-third of our donors are high school and college students. They’re out of school for the summer. Plus, families are on vacation; it’s hot so people don’t want to go out. There are a number of contributing factors.”
Others include an unseasonably early start to spring; a midweek Fourth of July holiday; and disasters such as the massive wildlife fire outbreaks in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and California and Tropical Storm Debby nearing landfall in Florida.
In addition to those needs, blood supply must also meet the demand for accident and burn victims, heart surgery patients, organ transplant patients, premature babies when there are complications during childbirth and for patients receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle-cell disease.
One such local case is that of 25-year-old Lance Bias of Rhome.
The father of one is battling acute myeloid leukemia, a blood and bone marrow cancer.
After being diagnosed in late May, Bias began chemotherapy two weeks ago.
“He hasn’t needed any transfusions yet, but as they do more treatments and weaken his system, he will need to,” his brother, Chris, said.
For that, Chris and his sister, Felicia, are organizing a Carter BloodCare drive 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, July 14, at Aaron’s, 1304 FM 51, in Decatur.
“I want to help my little brother as much as I can,” Chris said. “But this will not benefit only Lance, but the North Texas area.”
The blood collected at the drive will benefit the county, Scardis said.
“The blood we collect in a community stays in that community,” Scardis said. “Wise Regional (Health System) in Decatur, for example, is serviced by Carter BloodCare.”
Unlike Carter, the Red Cross works on a nationwide system.
“Blood donations go where they’re needed most,” Foster said. “… we can ship blood anywhere in the country. Say a massive bus crash happened in Wise County and 50 people needed emergency blood. There wouldn’t be enough blood in most counties to cover that, so the American Red Cross would send blood through our nationwide system. We don’t really ‘designate’ blood to a particular area, but we do ensure that it is available the minute it’s needed.”
Regardless of the distribution method, the organizations endorse the same cause. And a low supply causes the same fear.
“(Elective surgeries) may have to be canceled in order for blood to be available for emergencies,” Foster said. “Even at that, if the blood supply drops any lower, then there’s a risk that blood won’t be there for life-saving emergencies. That is the reason for the Emergency Blood Appeal. We want to avoid anyone not being able to get blood when they need it.”
Carter BloodCare drives scheduled locally are:
- 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, July 14, at Aaron’s, 1304 FM 51 in Decatur (in honor of Lance Bias of Rhome).
- 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 8, at Chico Public Library, 106 W. Jacksboro St.
- 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 8, at Bridgeport Public Library, U.S. 380 and 10th Street.
- 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 10, at Wal-Mart in Decatur.
For information, go to www.carterbloodcare.org. To host a drive, call 1(800)366-2834.
No Red Cross blood drives are currently scheduled locally. Check back at www.redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS to schedule an appointment.
TO GIVE BLOOD, DONORS:
- must be at least 16 years old and in good general health.
- should provide a personal photo identification issued by the state, school or U.S. government.
- must weigh at least 110 pounds.
- cannot give if currently taking antibiotics for treatment. It’s OK to give if taking vitamins, birth control or medicine for allergies, blood pressure, thyroid replacement, female hormones, anxiety or high cholesterol, etc.
- should eat a low-fat meal two to four hours before giving and drink lots of water or juice before and after donating. Avoid alcoholic beverages for 12 hours before and after donating.
- can give after getting allergy shots, influenza vaccine, hepatitis A vaccine or tetanus shot.
- should avoid strenuous activity for 12 hours after donating. Individuals with a hazardous or strenuous job should donate at the end of their shift.