"Typically we need 400 people every day to come in," said Bonnie Phillips, Blood Assurance's marketing and special events coordinator, referring to the supply needed to service about 50 healthcare facilities, such as Cartersville Medical Center, in Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina and Tennessee. "I looked at the Cartersville stats for our blood center down there on Joe Frank Harris Parkway. They need 14 people every day at that blood center, and we're only seeing about half that. So we need B negative and O negative. We're very low on both of those, but we're also low on O positive and A negative.
"And we were actually behind before the tornado hit. We were seeing a shortage. Then summer hit, and summer's always a hard time to get blood in because we get a lot of our blood from the high schools. So once high school lets out, that's about 13 percent of our annual blood draw."
Echoing Phillips' comments, Randy Edwards -- CEO for Red Cross' Southern Blood Services Region -- also said his nonprofit faces donor recruitment challenges during the summer months. Currently, the Red Cross is seeking donors for all blood types, especially for type 0 negative.
"Summer is one of the most difficult times for blood collection, and we often see shortages during this time of year. All blood types are needed, but particularly type O negative, which is the universal blood type and can be given to anyone in an emergency situation," Edwards said. "Declines in blood collection strain the current blood supply and also make it particularly difficult for the American Red Cross to be prepared for future emergency needs. Each day, countless trauma victims, cancer patients, premature babies and surgical candidates rely on the availability of blood for transfusions, and as a community we need to be able to meet those needs."
During the summer, the two blood suppliers are providing area residents ample opportunity to donate. While the Red Cross is organizing 11 public drives in Bartow through Aug. 31, Blood Assurance has a donation center at 921 Joe Frank Harris Parkway in Cartersville in which people can donate throughout the year Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Most individuals older than 16, who weigh at least 110 pounds, can donate blood every 56 days.
"Every time you donate, you save three people's lives," Phillips said. "Your 30 minutes that you spend donating will help three people that are your friends and neighbors in your community because when you donate at Blood Assurance, it is helping everyone in your area. So it's something that you can do. It doesn't cost anything. You get a T-shirt and you get to register for a cool prize.
"Not a lot of people donate and we need more people to donate because you never do know when a tornado or another event will occur. And the blood that you donate today, it takes 48 hours to process. So the blood that you donate today will help someone in two days."
While blood only has a shelf life of a maximum of 42 days, Jenny Reedy -- donor recruitment representative for the American Red Cross' Northwest Georgia Territory -- said having to use it within this time frame is not an issue for her organization.
"[Blood] only lasts 35 to 42 days but we do not have a problem with that in this state," Reedy said. "We are actually an importing state -- the state of Georgia is. So we import blood from the Carolinas, a lot from the Carolinas actually, because we're such a hospital hub in the metro area. There's so many specialty hospitals and transplant hospitals and children's hospitals. We don't collect enough to sustain ourselves. Then with all the recent tornado action and everything like that, the Carolinas are being tasked to give to other areas as well."
Even though the Red Cross does not supply blood to Cartersville Medical Center, Reedy said the need still is pressing with the nonprofit's Southern Blood Services Region providing blood to more than 120 hospitals in Georgia. To meet the demands of these hospitals, 1,200 people are needed to donate blood and platelets each weekday.
"You don't know where you're going to be when you need a unit of blood or your family is going to be when they need a unit of blood," Reedy said. "Red Cross supplies over 50 percent of the hospitals in the nation and over 50 percent in the state of Georgia.
"So just because we don't service Rome and Cartersville and Blood Assurance does, it doesn't necessarily mean that you won't need some from Emory or Grady or Crawford Long or Children's Hospital [or] WellStar. ... That's what I tell people is that, 'We don't live in a bubble.' Red Cross is the national blood supplier but in the state of Georgia we do not even collect enough to sustain ourselves, and so our blood stays in the state of Georgia."