Hospitals, Red Cross badly need blood donors

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 13, 2004

January's recognition of National Blood Donor Month could not have come at a better time for local and national organizations that are experiencing the worst blood shortages in at least two decades.

The Greater Alleghenies chapter of the American Red Cross, which serves 33 counties across the Tri-State, reported a shortage on all blood types. Generally, the organization needs a 5-day supply of each type. Currently, the organization is at or below a 1-day supply for each, said Cheryl Gergely, supervisor of communications for the Red Cross chapter.

Nationally, the Red Cross provides about 46 percent of the nation's blood supply. Across the country, the blood levels are at only about one and a half day's supply, she said.

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"Typically, we experience shortages in December around the holidays. We can't go to the high schools and colleges. Plus, you have the flu and cold seasons,"

said Gergely, an 18-year employee of the Red Cross. "This year the shortage is the worst in years."

In part because the organization began December with a shortage, the situation has only gotten worse.

Gergely said the situation is now the worst that they have seen in the past 20 years.

The Red Cross is encouraging anyone who is able to make the commitment to give blood, which is in reality giving the gift of life, Gergely said.

"Keep in mind that the Red Cross does not need blood. Hospitals do not need blood. People need blood," she said. "When you donate a pint of blood, you are saving a life. Actually, blood can be separated into different parts, so you are really saving three lives."

Cheryl Bennett, supervisor of the King's Daughters Blood Bank, agreed that blood shortage is a tremendous problem right now.

"Currently, there is a nationwide shortage of blood," she said in a written statement. "Normally, one region can borrow products from another to offset shortages, but at this time, there are shortages everywhere. We urge everyone who can to donate."

Local residents will have several opportunities to donate throughout the month.

On Wednesday, the Red Cross will be at Kilgore United Methodist Church at 14630 State Route 854 in Rush, Ky., from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. The Red Cross will also host a blood drive at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth at the James A. Rhodes Athletic Center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A blood drive will be at Our Lady of Bellefonte's Behavioral Health Center from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday.

King's Daughters is hosting a community blood drive from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 28, at the KDMC Health Education Center in Ashland, Ky.

In addition, the blood donor room at the KDMC Sleep Medicine Center, 2245 Winchester Ave., Suite 1, is available for those who cannot give at the regular blood drives. To schedule an appointment to give blood at Winchester Avenue or other local site, call the American Red Cross at 1-800-GIVE-LIFE.

The Red Cross will visit Central Christian Church, located at 1541 S. Seventh St. in Ironton, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Jan. 29.

Beginning Jan. 30, all donors should bring a Red Cross donor card or other form of government-issued picture identification. Student IDs, corporate IDs and credit cards with photos will also be accepted.

Donors can also present two of the following: work ID, social security card, original or certified copy of a birth certificate, personal check book, bank card, library card, insurance card, pay stub or other forms of identification.

The local representatives want to encourage all potential donors that now is the time to donate.

"Blood is needed every day throughout the year," Bennett said. "Please become a blood donor and give regularly."