According to Kim Murphy, director of donor recruitment for Blood Assurance, shortages are usually expected during the winter because of the weather, busy holiday travel schedules, seasonal illnesses and the fact that many of the region’s college students, who make up a large percentage of donors, do not start classes until mid-January.
“January is usually a challenging time,” Murphy said. “Donations are down due to the winter weather, holidays and increased flu and sickness. This always makes winter a difficult time, so we really need support from blood donors.”
This winter’s particularly rough and early flu season, combined with the aftermath of natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, have created an even greater need for blood donations regionally and nationally. This combination has created a perfect storm for this month’s blood shortage.
Despite these challenges, Murphy said the need for blood doesn’t take a day off.
While there is always a need for all blood types, local blood donation centers have highlighted a critical need for certain types, including Type O negative, which can be transfused to almost anyone, making it a go-to blood type for emergency responders and doctors in urgent trauma care; Type B negative, which can be transfused to B positive and negative and AB positive and negative patients; and Type AB, which has a plasma type that can be transfused to almost anyone. Platelets, which serve as the clotting component of blood, are used for cancer patients, and are also always in high demand.
In a recent press release, Blood Assurance cited a crucial shortage in Type O positive blood, which is always much-needed, because it’s the most common blood type.
In general, blood providers such as Marsh Regional Blood Center, the region’s largest supplier of blood, try to obtain at least 100 units of blood each day. According to a recent report from Kingsport Times-News, they hold about 650 blood drives at local schools and businesses each year to meet this demand.
The only requirements to donate blood are a minimum age of 17, good health and a minimum donor weight of 110 pounds.