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Red Cross faces summer blood shortage

The American Red Cross is urging blood and platelet donors to help replenish an "extremely low" summer blood supply.

Donations have decreased drastically the past few months, resulting in a national shortage of blood, according to the Red Cross, with about 39,000 fewer donations than what is needed.

“Summertime is particularly challenging,” said Natividad Lewis, communications manager for the Pacific Northwest chapter. “Now we have a significant shortage around the Fourth of July time period.”

Nearly 650 fewer Red Cross blood drives were scheduled last week because of Independence Day vacations, the agency said.

“There are people everywhere that need blood donations,” said Lewis. “The need for blood doesn’t break for vacation.”

Some of the larger blood drives that bring in more donors are held at schools and universities, which are closed or on reduced hours during the summer break.

“Right now, blood products are being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in, which is why we are making this emergency request for donations,” said Neil Tosuntikool, donor recruitment director of the Pacific Northwest region.

The Red Cross must collect about 14,000 blood and platelet donations for patients daily for about 2,600 hospitals nationwide. Someone needs a blood or platelet donation every two seconds in the United States because of burns, traumatic accidents, heart surgery, organ transplants or treatment for leukemia, cancer and sickle cell disease. In the Pacific Northwest, 4,800 donations are needed daily, according to Lewis.

Thirty percent of the American population is eligible to donate blood, but only 10 percent of them actually donate, according to Lewis.

Stephanie Jarvis, a senior psychology major at Southern Oregon University who is from Roseburg, said she and her friends began to donate blood after the Umpqua Community College shooting in 2015.

“My friends and I decided to help by donating blood for the first time, then,” said Jarvis after donating blood Wednesday in Ashland. “I donate every chance I have now, about once every two months.”

Donated blood is separated into equal usable parts, according to Darla Lonning, collections specialist. Red blood cells can be kept on the shelf for 42 days and plasma can be frozen for up to a year.

“It’s the blood donations on the shelves that help save lives when an emergency occurs,” said Tosuntikool, in a release by Red Cross.

Many blood drive sites will have extended hours until stock is replenished, according to Lewis. All blood types are needed.

Those unable to give blood can still encourage others to donate through redcrossblood.org/sleevesup. The site allows for a “virtual blood drive.” Participants can create a campaign and send friends and family notifications online. It allows users to donate financially or physically. Donors can donate anywhere in the United States, even if the campaign is based in a different area.

“It’s not tied to a location, it’s tied to a person,” said Lewis. “People create campaigns for all kinds of causes. Maybe it’s in memory of someone or for a church cause.”

To schedule an appointment to donate, see redcrossblood.org, call 800-733-2767 or use the free app "Blood Donor." Appointments and completion of a health survey at redcrossblood.org/rapidpass can help to avoid longer wait times.

“Blood is always needed,” said Lewis. “It’s something that can affect any of us or someone we know at any time.”

To find a blood drive near you, go to www.redcrossblood.org.

Contact news intern Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@dailytidings.com.