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Donor shortage leads Red Cross to seek more blood donations

Published 10:45am Tuesday, February 26, 2013

They want your blood.

In fact, Mower-Freeborn American Red Cross leaders are urging local residents to make donating blood a priority, because of a recent blood shortage and the continued need for donations.

Winter weather and the long-lasting flu season heightened the need for donations, as many people canceled from drives because of illness.

“People are making appointments, and then they just can’t come,” said Executive Director Elaine Hansen said. “It’s been a hard winter with that kind of thing.”

A number of factors have contributed to a challenging winter of blood collections. Along with the prolonged flu season, Hurricane Sandy and significant snow storms in the Midwest and on the east coast have slowed donations across the country.

It’s nothing new, as winter weather routinely causes hardships each year, according to Hansen.

“It’s always a challenge this time of year,” she said.

Sue Gonsior, a communication program manager with the Red Cross, said the organization has ample blood supplies, but needs more donors to continue replenishing its stock.

Though no blood drives were canceled locally after Thursday and Friday’s snowstorm, Hansen said several were likely canceled or poorly attended across the region, which for blood donations includes most of Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

A few recent blood drives came up a bit short of goals. The drive at Sterling State Bank in Austin Feb. 4-6 collected about 229 units, short of the 236-unit goal.

“We weren’t horribly short, but we were still short,” Hansen said.

On Feb. 11, a drive in Albert Lea only collected about 13 units of bloods, less than halfway to the goal of 30 units.

Another challenge is that blood has a relatively short storage life, so people need to continually donate so there’s a safe blood source available.

“It’s just a continuous challenge to try and get there,” Hansen said.

The Red Cross is especially looking for younger donors. While there are quite a few elderly and high school age donors, Hansen said they’re seeking donors in their 20s and 30s. Hansen said that’s been a difficult demographic to crack, largely because of busy schedules.

“It doesn’t take that long,” she said of donating.

Blood donated in Mower and Freeborn counties first goes to St. Paul for testing before it is distributed within the region of Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Once the need is met locally, blood is then shipped across the U.S. to where it’s most needed.

Blood donations hit very close to home for Hansen, as her father received more than 60 units of blood when he had leukemia.

“It’s something I very much believe in,” she said.

The tradition of give blood has passed on in Hansen’s family, as her 16-year-old daughter recently made her first donation.

“She really understands how important that is,” Hansen said.

Hansen said blood donations are incredibly important, because there’s no substitute. One donation of a unit of blood can help three patients, according to the American Red Cross.

“There’s no greater thing than to give the gift of life,” Hansen said.

By the numbers

583: Units of whole blood for transfusion used at the Austin medical center in 2012.

32: Units of platelets used at the Austin medical center.

93: Units of plasma used at the Austin medical center.

Upcoming blood drives

•March 11, 2-7 p.m. at Our Savior Lutheran Church, 411 W. Main St. in Brownsdale.

•March 12, 12-6 p.m. at Grand Meadow School, 710 Fourth Ave. NE in Grand Meadow.

•March 13, 1-7 p.m. at Community Center, 204 W. Main St. in LeRoy.

•March 14, 1-7 p.m. at Southland High School, 203 Second St. in Adams.

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