The American Red Cross Greater Los Angeles Region put out an emergency call Monday for eligible blood and platelet donors of all blood types to help address a nationwide winter blood donation shortage.
Platelet and type O negative and B negative blood donations — in particular — are critically needed, according to the organization.
Severe winter weather has had a tremendous impact on blood donations. More than 150 blood drives have already been canceled in January due to snowstorms and frigid temperatures, causing more than 5,500 blood and platelet donations to go uncollected, the Red Cross reported. Further adding to the diminishing supply, holiday schedules, winter weather and an active cold and flu season collectively contributed to more than 28,000 fewer donations than what was needed in November and December.
“Last week’s massive winter storm had a significant impact on our blood supply with blood drives canceled from South Carolina to Maine,” said Chris Hrouda, president of Red Cross Blood Services. “The Red Cross is doing everything we can to ensure blood products are available for hospital patients during these difficult winter months, but we need help from our regular donors – – as well as those who are willing to donate for the first time — to give as soon as possible.”
January is National Blood Donor Month — one of the most challenging times of year to collect enough blood and platelet donations to meet patient needs. The Red Cross provides about 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply, and currently Red Cross blood products are being distributed to hospitals as fast as donations come in, according to the organization.
The Red Cross said it must collect more than 13,000 donations every day for patients at about 2,600 hospitals and transfusion centers nationwide. Accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and patients receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease may all require blood to help save their lives.
Eligible individuals are urged to schedule a blood or platelet donation by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling (800) 733-2767. Donors can help even more people by inviting a family member, friend or co-worker to donate, too.
The Red Cross encourages individuals to make a donation appointment and to complete a RapidPass online health history questionnaire to help speed up the donation process. RapidPass can now be completed on mobile devices and through the Blood Donor App.
People who are at least 17 years old in most states — 16 with parental consent where allowed by state law — weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.
Platelets, a key clotting component of blood often needed by cancer patients, must be transfused within five days of donation and, therefore, are always in high demand. By giving platelets regularly, donors can help patients kick cancer and recover from other life-threatening illnesses and injuries.
Type O negative is the universal blood type and what emergency room personnel reach for when there is no time to determine the blood type of patients in the most serious situations.
Type B negative can be transfused to Rh-positive or negative patients.
American Red Cross Los Angeles serves more than 88 cities and is comprised of five Red Cross chapters.