SIKESTON - Traditionally a crucial month for blood supply, January has been recognized as National Blood Donor Month since 1970.
But this January is turning out to be worse than usual. "As you remember last January found us on the heels of 9-11," said Freida Cardwell, local blood services chairperson. "People just couldn't do enough for months afterward. Donors flooded to our local drives by the hundreds and we even had to turn some away. You've heard the term 'out of sight-out of mind,' that is where we are now. Since there isn't a specific cause many do not realize the need is on going right this very minute for patients that depend on it.
"In addition to this, we have had to cancel blood drives due to weather conditions, ineligibility of donors due to the flu, plus January is typically a month for more surgeries requiring additional blood. All of these factors have taken its toll on our supply."
Last week the nation's blood banks issued an urgent appeal for blood donations, saying much of the country has less than a two-day supply on hand.
Some hospitals are postponing elective surgeries because blood supplies are so low, with less than a single day's supply in certain areas. Banks try to keep a five- to seven-day supply on hand.
Fortunately, however, Missouri Delta Medical Center hasn't experienced that severe of a problem. "We're doing fine," said one lab technician at the facility. "We've have not had to cancel any surgeries. Basically our biggest shortage is with O negative blood. We like to have 5-6 units on hand for emergencies and this week we had four units and last week only two to three."
In an unusual appeal the nation's two main blood suppliers, the American Red Cross and America's Blood Centers, joined to urge prompt donations.
The Red Cross reported that during the past two weeks, its blood supplies have dropped by nearly half, while more than 60 percent of the banks at America's Blood Centers report supplies of two days or less.
"Despite desperate pleas our situation still remains critical," Cardwell said. "It's imperative to have our supplies replenished for the immediate needs in our community as well in case of an emergency. We never know when we could experience another 9-11 or similar tragedy and our goal is to always be prepared because when lives are at stake, help can't wait!
"Every day in our Missouri/Illinois region we use 1,200 units of whole blood," she continued. "We have people calling constantly needing blood and we give to the hospitals all we can. The blood is dated, however and it must be used in a certain time frame. We simply cannot supply these needs without donors giving blood on a daily basis. Every single unit of blood is used to its fullest and literally helps keep someone alive."
Blood types needed immediately are O positive, O negative, B negative and B positive.
"The American Red Cross understands people are busy," Cardwell said. "This need, however is a life and death issue. Our plea is if you are eligible to give blood, please prioritize it in your schedule, it usually takes about an hour of your time. Giving blood hurts no more than a pinch and the blood you give will give someone else another chance at life. If you have never given blood consider doing so.
"There is nothing that you could do on any given day that would give so much back to your community. The truth is we never know the future or when we or someone we love will need to blood to stay alive. Won't you please open up your heart, roll up your sleeves and give blood, the gift of life."
The next blood drive in Sikeston will be from 1-6 p.m. Feb. 13th at Missouri Delta Medical Center.