A break from routine could be one of the biggest factors in blood supply shortages over the holidays as vacation time and freezing weather typically slow donations to a trickle nationwide.
Like clockwork, as calendars flip to the winter holiday season, the American Red Cross annually experiences a decline in blood and platelet donations that can put area medical services in a bind with fewer products on hand, making it critically important for donors to roll up their sleeves as they get back to a normal routine.
"The holiday routines cause people to get out of their normal schedules, and throw winter weather into the mix and it's really a challenging time for us," said Anthony Tinin, donor recruitment representative at the Red Cross donation center in Paducah.
In the summer, the Red Cross experienced a 10 percent decline in blood donations nationwide that created a shortage heading into the fall. While supply is still low - hampered by a week of frozen weather in December - the Paducah center was able to stem the flow with a holiday blood drive at First Christian Church on Wednesday and Thursday that saw more than 50 units logged into the system.
According to the Tennessee Valley Blood Services Region - serving the western Kentucky and southern Illinois areas - an overall decline throughout the region brought supplies down over the holidays but not to a point that would hinder hospital operations. The region needs about 500-600 donors weekly to adequately meet demand.
"Hospital patients don't get a holiday from needing blood and platelets," said Tim Ryerson, Tennessee Valley Blood Services Region CEO, in a statement ahead of Christmas. "The closer we get to the major holiday week, the more we see donations decline."
Currently, the Red Cross seeks eligible donors with types O negative, B negative and A negative blood. Type O negative, considered the universal blood type, can be transfused to anyone who needs blood, while Type A and B negatives can be transfused to Rh positive or negative patients.
When considering several additional shots of frigid winter weather are expected in the near future, Tinin asked potential donors to consider scheduling appointments or attending upcoming drives as soon as possible to help sustain supplies throughout the winter.
"Giving blood is an important step in getting things back to normal now that we're through the holidays," he said. "We ask anyone who can come out to come donate because there's always a need."
People can visit www.redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS for a convenient way to schedule an appointment and look for blood drive opportunities in the local area.
Contact Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676 or follow @WCPinkston on Twitter.
Upcoming blood drives
n Calloway County: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at Walgreens, 1205 Main St. in Murray.
n Graves County: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, at Knights of Columbus Hall 1418, 106 Picnic Blvd. in Fancy Farm.
n Calloway County: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, at Walmart, U.S. 641 North in Murray.
n Graves County: 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, at Graves County Middle School, 615 Jimtown Road in Mayfield.
n Massac County, Ill.: 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Jan. 10, at Massac Memorial Hospital, 28 Chick St. in Metropolis, Ill.