Blood collections disrupted by recent storms

ALBANY, Ga. -- Obstacles have arisen as a result of recent storms while officials with the American Red Cross are making an effort to increase blood supply inventory since making a recent emergency call for donors.

Officials with the Red Cross have recently issued a national blood appeal, but severe storms in the Midwest and mid-Atlantic areas have impacted the ability to build the blood inventory back up to sufficient levels in many locations, a news release from the organization indicates.

Power outages, fallen trees and other storm impacts have prevented donors from getting to blood donation centers and blood drives. Dozens of blood drives have been canceled, resulting in the shortfall of nearly 1,700 units of blood and platelets, officials say.

All blood types are needed, but especially O positive, O negative, B negative and A negative in order to meet patient demand this summer, officials with the Red Cross say.

Officials have indicated that the Fourth of July holiday has also contributed to the shortage, as it is a time when families are on vacation, schools are out of session and many companies do not host blood drives because their employees are on extended leave.

Even so, patients don't get a holiday from needing blood products. The need is constant, officials say.

"Every day, the Southern Blood Services Region must collect approximately 1,200 pints for patients at more than 120 hospitals and transfusion centers across the region," said Randy Edwards, chief executive officer of the American Red Cross Southern Blood Services Region, which serves Georgia, parts of South Carolina and Florida, in a statement. "We need donors to make appointments in the coming days and weeks to help us ensure that all patient blood needs can be met. Each pint of whole blood can help save more than one life."

"The American Red Cross continues to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to best meet hospital patients' needs. We are closely monitoring inventory levels at all distribution sites, and working with hospitals to triage and transfer products as needed to ensure patient needs are met."

Previously slated for closure on June 30, the Albany Blood Donor Center has remained open to help meet the need.

The shuttering of the center has been delayed once before, as officials had initially announced the facility would be closing on Dec. 31 of last year as an effort to control costs.

"The Albany blood donation center continues to serve as an important blood and platelet collection site, as well as a distribution center for South Georgia," said Kristen Stancil, communications program manager for the blood services region, in an email to The Albany Herald earlier this week. "The center will remain open for the foreseeable future, and a decision about its potential closure has not yet been made."

The emergency call for blood was issued after 50,000 fewer donations than expected came last month, leaving the Red Cross with just half the readily available blood products on hand from this time last year.

Aside from the donor center, located at 1515 Dawson Road, there will be other venues at which people will have opportunities to give blood. There are drives set for 2 p.m.-7 p.m. on Friday at the Albany Mall, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday at First Albany Deliverance on South Slappey Boulevard, from 9 a.m.- 1 p.m. on Monday at Building C of Albany Technical College, from 4 p.m.-8 p.m. on July 18 at Beattie Road Church of Christ and from 2 p.m.-7 p.m. on July 27 at Phoebe Northwest.

Call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit www.redcrossblood.org to make an appointment or to get more information. A blood donor card or driver's license, or two other forms of identification, are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age, weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate.