Tony Duncan/Johnson City Press
If you have a blood type of either O positive, O negative, A negative or B negative, the American Red Cross may need your help.
Gwen Hunter, blood donor recruiter in East Tennessee with the American Red Cross, said while all blood types are needed, those four types in particular are in urgent need.
“Because of this huge winter storm that has impacted 25 states, we have now have a shortfall of 8,800 units of blood,” Hunter said.
“The Red Cross ships blood ... all over the country, depending on where the need is. We’re working very hard to replenish the supply. O negative is always in high demand because it’s the universal donor. It can be transfused to any blood type. We keep ... several days supply of blood in inventory. Blood lasts only 42 days. When bad weather hits, blood drives have to be canceled because people can’t get out to give blood when they’re snowed in.”
She said the Red Cross has continued to dispense blood to patients who need it on a constant basis, but said they’ve significantly depleted the local supply.
“We still have enough to meet the need, but we need to replenish it as quickly as possible and it will take us several weeks, maybe even a couple of months, to completely rebuild the supply,” Hunter said. “What’s really significant is the Red Cross is impacted by weather situations in our nation the most of any of the other blood-collection organizations. We collect and distribute about 40 percent of all of the blood in the nation.
“Everybody who is able to donate can make a huge difference to someone, perhaps, right here in their own community or across the country,” she said. “When people know of the need for anything, they’re wonderful to step forward and help, and that’s true of giving blood the same way it’s true of people giving money.”
Having worked for the Red Cross for eight years, Hunter said she’s never seen canceled blood drives so widespread, and the Red Cross has now had to solicit help from the community.
“We manage it just like we’re doing now,” Hunter said. “We send out contact information to our blood drive partners, our businesses, schools, churches that are currently scheduled to have drives and encourage them to recruit just a few more people.”
A Red Cross news release said individuals who are eligible to give blood have to be at least 17 years old or 16 years old with parental consent, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health.