Officials: Blood supplies running low this summer
by By Jennifer Cohron
Aug 24, 2011 | 875 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Daily Mountain Eagle

Approximately 500,000 blood donations will be needed this month to meet the national need for blood, according to a press release from the American Red Cross.

Pam Fikes, executive director of Walker County's Red Cross chapter, said she has been informed that Alabama's blood service region must collect at least 600 units every day in order to meet the current demand.

Fikes said blood donations typically drop off in the summer because people are busy with other activities.

However, Alabama residents are not known for giving blood under the best of circumstances.

"They say that nationwide about 8 percent of people who can give blood do, but in Alabama it's only 5 percent," Fikes said.

The Red Cross provides blood products to nearly 3,000 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country, according to the press release.

Walker Baptist Medical Center in Jasper is among those who rely on the Red Cross for blood.

Laboratory director Kathy Scott was notified two weeks ago that the hospital would likely experience a reduction in fill rate for several blood types until the Red Cross' inventory is replenished.

Seven of eight blood types are now in low supply. Only AB positive blood is listed as sufficient.

Scott said doctors consider certain criteria before ordering a transfusion in order to conserve blood as much as possible.

She added that no surgeries have been rescheduled because of the current blood shortage, and officials are monitoring the situation closely.

"If we get a patient that appears to be critical and may get numerous transfusions, we would apprise the physician if that particular blood type is low and that we need to make sure we can get all of the units that the patient is going to need," Scott said.

Fikes said that between 20 and 30 units of blood are collected during monthly blood drives held at the Red Cross facility on Viking Drive. An accident victim, she added, can take up to 100 units of blood in some instances.

A blood drive is scheduled for Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Red Cross building on Viking Drive in Jasper.

Eligible donors must be at least 17 years old, meet height and weight requirements and be in good physical health.

Scott said that potential donors should consider the likelihood that they will need a transfusion one day.

"It's simple, painless and a good way to help somebody," Scott said.