(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Currently only five hours worth of blood exists in the American Red Cross inventory, signaling one of the most severe blood shortages to date for Southeast Missouri.
"Basically, five hours of blood may not be enough to cover one severe car accident victim," noted David Palmer, American Red Cross donor recruitment account manager for Southeast Missouri. "The shortage is as bad as we've ever seen it."
So for the second time this summer, the American Red Cross is launching a blood appeal from now through Labor Day weekend.
"I don't ever remember having two appeals in one summer -- and I've been doing this for 16 years," Palmer recalled.
The last appeal in June boosted supplies enough to cover through the Fourth of July holiday and a few weeks beyond. In order to cover patients' needs from now through Labor Day, approximately 9,500 donations are needed, according to the Red Cross.
"Summer is always a tough time for us," Palmer said. "We are having a demand of blood while the number of donors is decreasing. Plus, there's hot weather. We're right at the end of summer, and school is starting. Everybody's busy."
The demand for blood during this summer has increased by 2,000 units per month compared to last summer's demand, according to the Red Cross. The percentage far outweighs the number of donors coming in to give.
"Right now we get our blood at a minimum level," said medical technician Craig Welker, Missouri Delta Medical Center blood bank supervisor. "We have not had to cancel any of our surgeries. The American Red Cross has been able to keep us supplied with what we need."
However, even if MDMC is at minimum levels today, if no one donates, they could be at emergency levels in 10 days, Welker pointed out.
Welker admitted that with Labor Day coming up, area residents should consider donating their blood. "On three-day weekends, we always have an increase of blood usage," he said.
In case of a shortage, MDMC will exchange blood supplies with other area hospitals, Welker explained. MDMC gives about 1,600 units of blood to patients each year, he added.
Area residents will have a chance to donate their blood at three blood drives this weekend. They will be from 2 to 6 p.m. today at the First Baptist Church, 1101 N. Main St.; from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Sikeston Factory Outlet Stores, 100 Outlet Drive; and 7:45 a.m. until noon Sunday at the St. Denis School Parish Center in Benton.
Donors can give blood every 56 days, or six times a year. Potential donors should weigh a minimum of 110 pounds, be 17 years of age and be in good health.
"In our region, we need about 1,100 units per day Monday through Friday and about 1,100 units on the weekend, or 6,000 units a week," Palmer said. "One person's donation is equivalent to one unit, or one pint."
One thing area residents should be aware of is blood does have a shelf life, Palmer reminded. It's just like milk with an expiration date, he said.
Red cells, which is what most of the blood in this area is used for, has a shelf life of 42 days and platelets last five days, Palmer explained. Inventory is first-in, first-out, and the Red Cross could use all types, especially O-positive and O-negative, he added.
Currently distribution is set at 565 units of blood a day, Palmer said. With the current state of the inventory, filling those shipments appears unlikely -- unless people come out and donate, he said.
"I just hope everybody takes the time to come out this weekend and at other drives and help us out of a crunch," Palmer urged.
To organize a blood drive or to find out where the nearest blood drive is to you, call Palmer at (573) 339-1822.