by Melissa LaScaleia
With hurricane season behind us, the American Red Cross is focused on maintaining an adequate blood supply for area hospitals.
“Blood is the highest priority and one of our biggest challenges right now,” says Ben Williamson, communications director for the American Red Cross, South Carolina. “Every year around this time, we see a dip in blood donations. It’s usually because people are on vacation or are taking time off to spend with their families.
“It’s always been important for us to collect blood at this time, but Covid-19 has exaggerated that need even more. You have to have a constant blood supply to provide to patients in the hospitals that need them. People are still getting cancer, still needing blood transfusions. Children still have diseases. Accidents still happen. People are still needing blood for a variety of different things, so we have to keep the blood supply at a constant level. And right now, we’re teetering at not being there.”
The governor of SC, the CDC, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Surgeon General, have all said that the collection of blood is an essential service. In addition to the usual holiday slump, because of Covid, people are more nervous to come out and give blood, creating an even larger deficit. It’s not at the forefront of most people’s minds right now. But never has it been more critical.
“Right now, if you donate blood, there’s a potential your blood can help someone who’s battling this virus,” Ben says. “Many people think they just donated two months ago, but they forget that blood is perishable; we have to continuously replenish with new blood donations, and need your help again. It’s something we have to think about continuously.”
The Red Cross wants to remind everyone that safety is their top priority— for everyone— not only donors.
“We’ve had safety procedures in place since day one,” Ben says. “From the moment you arrive there are temperature checks done on staff, volunteers and donors. All donors, staff and volunteers are required to wear masks. We are encouraging appointments and reducing capacity at drives to allow for social distancing. We’re also spacing donation beds six feet or more apart; they are sanitized and cleaned before and after each donation. Every night, there’s a deep clean that is done of the whole facility. And we ask donors to be feeling healthy and well 14 days prior to their donation.”
The American Red Cross supplies blood to over thirty hospitals in SC, which is why it’s so important for them to keep their donations high. They will fulfill the local need first, but because they are a national organization, they have the capabilities to help in other areas of the country if those places are in short supply of a particular type of blood.
If you donate blood using the American Red Cross blood donor app from your smartphone, you can track where your blood is. Called the blood journey, it will show you what hospital it was delivered to and you will also receive an alert when someone who needed blood receives yours.
“We are so grateful for the donors and folks who have stepped up to donate,” Ben says. “We know the past year has been extremely difficult for people, and a lot of people have struggled greatly during this pandemic.
“At the same time, we’ve seen so many people give back, and we’re so grateful for that. And because of those donations, we’ve been able to continuously meet the need for blood, and help the people who need it. We have people who have given for years, and we’ve also seen people who have done it for the first time. It takes a village, as they say.”