The American Red Cross is pleading for blood donations as its supply dips to unexpected lows.
Nationally, the blood supply shortfall means the Red Cross has half the amount of available blood products on hand than it did a year ago.
Locally for the Appalachian Blood Services Region the situation mirrors the nationwide shortage, said spokesman Bob Lutjen.
“We’re not getting a whole lot of response,” Lutjen said, of attempts to attract donors to blood drives.
A June promotion to attract donors has fallen flat, he added. The promotion, which is ongoing, included a weekly drawing for a $500 gas card.
“So far it has not made any significant change,” he said, adding that the drawing was held at the division level, meaning that the donors from the Appalachian region were combined with those from four other regions.
Only about 5 percent of the population donates blood and donations typically drop during the warmer months when schools are on summer break and people take vacations.
The unseasonably early start to spring may have contributed to the decrease in donations, the Red Cross speculated in its nationwide emergency call for donors. And the organization is worried about the mid-week Independence Day holiday, because fewer blood drives have been scheduled for that week.
“Every day, the Red Cross must collect more than 17,000 pints of blood for patients at more than 3,000 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country. Of that, the Appalachian Blood Services Region must collect approximately 300 pints per day,” said Bob Eaton, CEO of the Appalachian Blood Services Region, in the news alert issuing the call for donations. “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.”
In the fall, Carilion Clinic, the region’s largest hospital system, stopped getting its blood supply from Red Cross. Instead, Carilion signed a contract with Richmond-based Virginia Blood Services and has been seeking to drive donations to that organization.
Lutjen said the loss of the contract with Carilion has not been a factor in the declining donations. And the Red Cross Appalachian region continues to supply blood to LewisGale Regional Health System, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salem, Centra Health and nearly two dozen other hospitals in 46 counties of Virginia and West Virginia.
You can look up ways to donate to Red Cross here.