One blood donation can save up to three lives, but the donations are shrinking and putting this vital life-saving supply at risk.
For the past four years, the new donor base at Red Cross has been shrinking by 80,000 people yearly, Red Cross spokesperson Natividad Lewis said. This supply is incredibly important in the summer months as people go out on vacations and activities, but donors are in short supply because they’re usually unavailable due to travel.
This leads to a high demand and short supply of blood. This is also why the Red Cross is starting its Missing Types campaign running through July 2.
The campaign will ask businesses to remove the letters A, B and O from things like logos and signs to raise awareness for these missing blood types.
“It’s a visual pause to make you notice that something’s missing,” Lewis said.
National companies such as Domino’s Pizza and State Farm will be partaking in this campaign.
Someone in the United States needs blood every two seconds, and it’s not just for instances like car accidents, Lewis said. Many people need blood for surgeries, giving birth and medical treatments.
Summer is also hard for blood donations because about 20 percent of donations come from school and college blood drives, Lewis said. With school out for the summer, donation rates are lowered.
“It’s been a trend, with the decline of new donors,” Lewis said. “We want to jump in front of the challenges we experience during the summer time.”
For trauma centers such as Portneuf Medical Center having an ample supply of blood is essential, Administrative Lab Director Robert Smith said.
Portneuf, at a minimum, must have 60 to 70 units of blood on hand. During the summer blood donations lower, but it’s also when there’s an increase in accidents and blood need, Smith said.
“The thing that we usually see is that blood donations fall off in the summer,” Smith said. “We still need those donations all year round, but especially during the summer.”
It’s also necessary to have blood reserved for patients who are having surgeries in case something goes wrong. In the event of a shortage, Portneuf would have to start prioritizing patients for blood, which isn’t a position it wants to be in, Smith said.
At Mountain View Hospital, a lot of blood is used for cancer treatment and also in cases where a mother hemorrhages during birth.
Lab Manager Mary Cobos recalled an instance where a patient was bleeding on the operating table and the hospital was struggling to find the platelets it needed. Luckily they were able to get some from a hospital nearby, but the situation could have ended much worse.
A single blood donation can turn into three different blood products: platelets, plasma and red blood cells. Many people don’t realize how far a single donation goes, Cobos said.
The situation is very much life or death, Cobos said.
To donate blood, visit the local Red Cross in Idaho Falls at 1165 East 17th St., go to www.redcrossblood.org/MissingTypes or call 800-733-2767.