Inclement weather heightens blood shortage
by Matt Shinall
Jan 14, 2011 | 2642 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Blood Assurance donor care specialist Marla Cole takes Roger Parton’s blood pressure while he donates platelets at the donor center at Collins Point Plaza in Cartersville. Hospitals and blood banks are currently experiencing a shortage. All donors are encouraged to give, especially types O-negative and B-negative.  SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Blood Assurance donor care specialist Marla Cole takes Roger Parton’s blood pressure while he donates platelets at the donor center at Collins Point Plaza in Cartersville. Hospitals and blood banks are currently experiencing a shortage. All donors are encouraged to give, especially types O-negative and B-negative. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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Cold winter months typically leave blood banks in short supply as holidays, school closings and sickness divert potential donors, but with the addition of office closings, canceled blood drives and treacherous roads, a serious blood shortage has begun.

The American Red Cross and Blood Assurance have issued press releases asking for donations from those who are able. Blood Assurance provides all blood units for Cartersville Medical Center as well as more than 50 other hospitals in Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama.

"We are in desperate need of blood but obviously being closed on Monday and with all the schools closed, it's very difficult for us to get blood when nobody's working and nobody's at school," said Linda Hisey, Blood Assurance vice president of marketing and public relations. "Everyday we need 400 units, that's what we estimate the hospitals will use, and that's without a serious accident or some sort of major trauma that happens. That's just their standard operating amount."

The shortage has been visible to local medical officials by a noticeably reduced inventory. Although CMC Lab Director Paul Check said that all needs have been met, a low inventory raises concerns with unforeseen emergencies.

"We've been able to have enough blood for all of our patients in need but we have a very small inventory on hand because of the ice and snow storm and because of Blood Assurance not having donors coming in and donating blood," Check said. "If we have accidents or something on the interstate and we need a large amount of blood or more blood than we have in our inventory, that would cause a problem. We'd have to call in other hospitals, say in Rome -- Redmond or Floyd -- and see if we have a courier or EMT ambulance send it to us and that would be a delay before we could transfuse it if we do not have it currently in our blood bank."

The Chattanooga-based Blood Assurance operates a blood donor center in Cartersville in Collins Pointe Plaza directly across from CMC. The Cartersville Blood Assurance location was closed from Monday through Wednesday, opening again to its regular hours on Thursday. Less than 20 percent of the daily collection goals were met throughout Blood Assurance's 12 donor centers and 10 'bloodmobiles' as operations ramped back up Tuesday at some of those locations.

"Every winter, it's a tough time for us because people are on antibiotics and sick. It's a tough time to get blood to start with and then to have the snow come down, it just complicates matters so much more. I think on Tuesday we drew about 67 units of blood and we're supposed to draw 400 everyday," Hisey said. "At this time we're providing hospitals with everything they need but we're hoping everyone is staying safe and not needing surgery."

Current shortages are especially seen with O-negative and B-negative blood types but all donors are needed and encouraged. Although icy roads have kept donors away from donation centers and blood drives, they have not created an excess of trauma injuries from weather related accidents. Hisey explained however how regular patients depend on a consistent source of blood and blood components.

"We need any blood type right now -- if it's safe for them we'd love to see them in our Cartersville location or in our Rome location -- both are open regular hours now -- regardless of what type blood you have, but if you are O negative or B negative, we desperately need you," Hisey said. "I'm sure there are several injuries and contusions and stuff from people sledding and bumping their heads when they wreck but nothing serious, which is a good thing. But cancer patients continue to need their platelets and their blood transfusions daily, it doesn't make any difference, we still need to make sure we have blood for those folks."

Because of the regular reduction in donations this time of year, January is National Blood Donor Awareness Month as blood banks remind the public about the need and what can be done to help. Whole blood can be donated every eight weeks and blood components can be given every seven days up to 24 times a year.

For more information, visit www.bloodassurance.org, call 770-334-3261 or stop by 921 B Joe Frank Harris Parkway in Cartersville.