Red Cross seeks donors to combat summer slump

The American Red Cross is asking Austin residents to roll up their sleeves and give blood as soon as possible.

The Red Cross blood supply has reached emergency levels with 50,000 fewer donations nationwide than expected in June. This shortfall leaves the Red Cross with half the readily available blood products on hand it had this time last year, according to a Red Cross news release. The organization needs all blood types, especially O positive, O negative, B negative and A negative in order to meet patient demand this summer.

“We went on a national appeal because the need is urgent,” said Sue Gonsior, program manager in communications at the Red Cross.

The call for more donors is part of a nationwide effort to cover a shortfall in blood levels. While Austin, like Minnesota in general, has no shortage at the moment, its important to keep donating to help other areas of the country, Gonsior said.

“It goes both ways,” she said. “If Austin needed blood for an emergency, we’d be able to get it to you. We collect in communities, and that blood is used in communities first. We went on a national appeal because the need is urgent.” Blood lasts a little more than 40 days in storage, she added.

An unseasonably early start to spring may be a contributing factor to this year’s decrease in donations. Many regular donors got an early start on summer activities and aren’t taking time to give blood or platelets. This year’s mid-week Independence Day holiday has also reduced the number of scheduled Red Cross blood drives. Many sponsors, especially businesses, are unable to host drives because employees are taking extended vacations.

Gonsior said it’s typical at this time of year to face blood shortages, since high school and college blood drives are no longer collecting.

“When high schools aren’t in session, our blood donations drop 20 percent,” she said.

Without the necessary blood supplies, doctors may have to forego necessary surgeries, Gonsior said.

Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs a blood transfusion, according to the Red Cross. Blood and platelets are used to treat accident and burn victims, heart surgery patients, organ transplant patients, premature babies—when there are complications during childbirth—and patients receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease.

Call 800-733-2767 or visit redcrossblood.org to learn how to donate.

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