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Weather stresses blood supply

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- The white out that dumped several inches of snow on Georgia earlier this month has resulted in a severe impact to the region's blood supply.

The American Red Cross is reporting that there have been 14,000 donation appointments not followed through on in recent weeks due to donor center closures or cancellations -- 3,000 of which have been in Georgia.

"We have not seen the January supply drop this dramatically in a decade and we need to reverse this now," said Randy Edwards, CEO of the Red Cross Southern Blood Services Region, which includes the Albany area. "You don't wait to refuel your car once you've run out of gas. Donating blood or platelets now helps ensure immediate and future patient needs will be met."

The severity of the impact has stressed even the Red Cross' national inventory management system, which can move blood products to where they are needed most -- including areas experiencing severe weather.

"We've gone on a national appeal," said Tracye Bryant, communications manager for the Southern Blood Services Region. "The impact of the weather has been great throughout the country. While people are just getting back to their normal routine, we need donations.

"We need donors to schedule appointments."

Officials say the call applies to everyone, regardless of how they were impacted by the storm.

"While (certain areas) are not as impacted, blood donated in south Georgia can save lives everywhere," Bryant said. "Blood has no boundaries, and it can't be manufactured.

"Blood is what sustains life. People don't realize that until they need blood."

At this time, all blood types are needed -- especially O negative -- to ensure the universal donor supply is reliable. Those that are 17 years of age, weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate.

Donors that are 18 or younger are also expected to meet certain height and weight requirements. Those coming in to donate should bring their Red Cross blood donor card or another form of positive identification when they come in for their appointment.

A pint of blood can help save up to three lives. Red blood cells have a shelf life of 42 days, and platelets only have five days -- requiring them to be replenished constantly. Blood can go to help anyone from the next trauma victim to those currently undergoing treatment for sickle cell anemia or cancer.

There is a blood drive set to take place at Albany Technical College, Building C, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on Monday. The Albany Donor Center at 1515 Dawson Road is open from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, 1 p.m.-7 p.m. on Wednesday and from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday through Saturday to accept donations.

Potential donors are encouraged to make an appointment by calling 1-800-RED CROSS or visiting www.redcrossblood.org.