Bloodmobiles travel for help

While the thought of a needle protruding from an arm isn’t the most appealing image, for many blood donors, it’s the possibility of saving a loved one’s life that overshadows this uneasy thought.

“You have to put a face on that bag of blood,” said Judy Pearson, manager of communications and chapter relations for the American Red Cross of the Western Lake Erie region. “Your friend could be involved in a car accident tomorrow and could be the one needing it.”

The American Red Cross declared this month that its blood supply in the Cleveland area was facing an emergency-level shortage, with only a 12-hour supply of blood types O negative and B positive, and less than a 24-hour supply of A negative and O positive.

Pearson said that as poor weather conditions continue, northwest Ohio could face a similar crisis.

Last December, school cancellations and the holidays caused the Western Lake Erie region’s chapter – which supplies blood to Wood County – to experience a blood shortage.

Though this region has yet to declare an emergency, Pearson said she wouldn’t rule out the possibility of more shortages occurring before winter’s end. Red Cross Bloodmobiles travel to different schools and churches to set up blood drives and take the donations they need to supply area hospitals. But if these locations close due to inclement weather, the blood drives are then canceled.

“One bad day of snow and canceled blood drives can hurt us greatly,” Pearson said.

For this reason, the Red Cross is more dependent than ever upon the blood drives that do not get canceled, such as the one held in the Union earlier this week.

But Shanna Holland, president of the BGSU American Red Cross Club, said turnout at this week’s drive wasn’t as high as expected.

“This blood drive was very slow,” Holland said. “They shortened it to three days instead of four, which caused many students who regularly give to become confused on dates.”

Linda Hartman, who coordinates Red Cross blood drives on campus, said they collected 349 pints of blood over the three-day drive in comparison to last winter’s 445 pints collected over a four-day drive.

Even the success of last fall’s annual Blood Bowl, where BGSU competed against the University of Toledo to produce the most blood donations, could only help sustain the blood supply for a couple days.

“During the Blood Bowl this year, we made over 800 pints,” Holland said. “But this community that runs off of the Western Lake Erie region uses 300 pints per day. That would serve this region for only two and a half days.”

If the Red Cross does not have enough blood to supply for scheduled surgeries and transfusions, Pearson said that the worst-case scenario would be that those surgeries would be canceled.

According to Tina Robinette, blood bank supervisor at the Wood County Hospital, no surgeries have been canceled due to the recent shortages.

“The shortages haven’t really affected us,” Robinette said. “We aren’t really a trauma hospital though, so we keep a much smaller inventory [of blood]. Usually we can get what we order.”

Pearson said if the local supply is depleted, the Red Cross can try to get blood from other regions by flying it in from other cities. But to prevent having to take such actions, she stressed that people must realize how quickly and often the blood supply must be replenished.

“Maintaining a blood supply is a very fragile thing. People think you can just put it on a shelf and leave it there, but you can’t,” Pearson said, explaining that a blood donation is only good for 42 days.

According to Pearson, this is where college students come in.

“We really need new, younger adult donors – our donor base is getting older. It’s mostly grandparents,” she said. “We need people to become the next generation of donors.”

But Pearson said that for many students, the desire to donate may be there, but the time with which to do it may not.

But Kate White, freshman, who donated during this week’s blood drive said that being able to give blood on campus makes her more likely to continue doing it.

“It’s just so much easier to get to, I don’t have to drive anywhere and I can just come in after class,” she said.

“We realized we are competing with working, homework, class, all the things students do,” Pearson said. “But it always comes down to an individual person making the decision to give us their time and donation.”