A blood shortage is prompting the American Red Cross to issue an urgent call for eligible donors to give, and local health care officials are also seeking donations.
According to Debbie Gautier, RN, blood services coordinator for Sampson Regional Medical Center, the hospital’s blood bank is experiencing a shortage in O and A blood types.
“Mostly O positive and A positive, but there is a need for O negative and A negative as well,” she explained.
During this time of year, Gautier said the demand for blood increases and the number of donations usually sees a decrease. This, she said, is due to the busy lifestyle everyone leads in the summer months.
“Most (people) are vacationing, traveling for holidays, or are trying to relax with the break from school, therefore they forget to donate,” Gautier said. “Also, the blood donor center loses its supply they receive from school blood drives during these months because of summer break.”
According to Gautier, the O negative blood type is important to have on hand. Considered the universal donor type, anyone can receive O negative blood. O negative blood types are very uncommon, and when someone who is O negative needs blood, that is the only type they can receive.
“So it is important to have on hand not only because it is a universal donor type, but it is all that O negative people can receive,” she added.
Typically, Gautier shared, the blood center likes to keep 75-100 units of blood stocked. Currently, the blood bank is down to between 20-40 units.
Once the blood has been donated, Gautier said there is a 35-day shelf life. But, she added, the blood doesn’t stay around that long. The majority of the donations given out from the blood center, she added, go to cancer patients. All the blood given at the Sampson Regional Blood Donation Center stays in Sampson County and is given to local residents.
In an effort to rebuild the blood bank’s supply, a local blood drive is planned for July 19, from 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. in the third floor classroom at the hospital.
“Many of our regular donors do not give as often during the summer months while they are vacationing and our supporting organizations typically do not schedule as many blood drives during the summer,” Natalie Lamb, Director of Laboratory Services, said.
Thus, the Hawaiian Vacation Blood Drive was scheduled.
“We want people to realize that even though they can take breaks from school and work during the summer, medical emergencies never take a break,” Alexis Kessenich, community relations/marketing intern, said. “They happen whether we are prepared for them or not. Therefore we need to be sure to always make the time to give blood so when things do happen, we are prepared.”
Blood donation is the ultimate gift and only takes about 45 minutes for first-time donors and a little less for those who have donated before. For those interested in donating, there are requirements. A donor must be at least 17 years old with parental consent of 18 years old otherwise. Anyone who is currently taking antibiotics or prescribed blood thinning medicines is unable to donate unless blood thinners are removed.
When potential donors come in, Gautier said they are screened. The potential donor’s hemoglobin is checked for iron levels. The center’s staff then checks the donor’s vitals and a questionnaire session is held to screen the donor. If everything checks out, Gautier said they can then donate.
Before any donation, Gautier said a good meal is recommended and after donating, the donor should drink plenty of fluids to replenish the body. A donor can donate every eight weeks. At each donation, Gautier said about 450cc of blood is drawn.
“If someone will just come donate the first time,” Gautier said, “I know they will be back to donate again.”
The Blood Donation Center is open Monday-Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome during these hours and then by appointment Thursday-Friday. If you are interested in donating or scheduling a blood drive, call 910-592-8511, ext. 3144
Individuals can send a submission online to request more information about being a donor, schedule a blood donation time, or to find out more information about setting up an on-site blood drive. Visit www.SampsonRMC.org/blooddonor to submit information.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.