Blood drives like Donor Days help local hospitals boost supply

Tyanne Donald of Paducah was one of several donors to stop by the Robert Cherry Civic Center on Thursday to take part in the Donor Days blood drive. Donors provided a total of 476 pints of blood, about 85% of the drive's goal, over the two-day event.

DAVID B. SNOW | The Sun

Hospitals in Paducah and across the nation rely on volunteer blood donors to keep their supply at an adequate level.

While individuals who turned out for the two-day "Donor Days" event at the Robert Cherry Civic Center Wednesday and Thursday provided 476 pints of blood, about 85% of the drive's goal, the need is still great, said American Red Cross recruitment coordinator Anthony Tinin.

"There is no artificial substitute for human blood," he said. "When a patient needs a blood transfusion after a surgery, a cancer treatment or after an accident, the only place that comes from is from people who have already given that blood to help them."

Blood donations are separated into plasma, blood platelets and red blood cells, and can help as many as three people.

Mercy Health-Lourdes Hospital bloodbank supervisor Laurie Urhahn said volunteer donations are important to hospitals to maintain a ready blood supply.

"With the O-negative blood supply -- I stock a certain amount here, and we try to replenish that," she said. "I was just on the phone with the American Red Cross because I ordered three units today and they were calling to say, 'Can you get by with just one?'

"That's very common through the holiday months and the summer months. It's a constant struggle."

The Red Cross issued an emergency need on July 9 when the supply of most blood types available dropped below three days' worth. At least a five-day supply is desired.

Officials said 450 fewer blood drives were hosted during the July 4 holiday week compared to an average week, compounding a shortfall of more than 24,000 blood donations in June.

Urhahn said most of the people in this area are O-positive, emphasizing that the need can be aided by local donors.

"We are very blessed in our area to have the (American Red Cross) Paducah Distribution Center," she said. "Red Cross here is a satellite off of Nashville, and they replenish the Paducah Distribution Center here daily."

Urhahn said stored blood is used for surgeries, oncology patients, patients with diseases that cause anemia, hemorrhages and other needs.

"Even though we haven't conquered cancer, these people live much longer," she said. "We are sustaining them. The blood transfusions are a must -- they're essential. They're absolutely essential for our cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Without the blood supply, they cannot be treated because it kills their bone marrow for a period of days, so their body's not able to make the blood products at that time.

"They keep improving these medications, and these people are living longer and being supported with blood products for a longer period of time. So, our 30 minutes of being inconvenienced with a needle stick and having our blood drawn gives quality of life to those patients."

Urhahn said the amount of blood used at Mercy Health-Lourdes varies month-to-month, but on average, the hospital uses about 200 pints, or units, of red blood cells a month.

"That doesn't include the platelets or the plasma," she said.

Baptist Health Paducah bloodbank supervisor Alice Holder said her hospital's blood supply comes from the Kentucky Blood Center of Lexington, which recently opened a distribution center in Paducah, but does not yet have a donation center here.

"They do blood drives in the hospital every eight to 10 weeks," she said.

Holder said there is always a need for blood, considering so many hospitals that need blood.

"We go through an average of 400 units a month, between blood and platelets and fresh frozen plasma," she said. "We really need it. Usually in the summer months, between vacations and holidays, people don't think about donating as much. Usually, in the summers, there's a shortage, and during the holidays, there's a shortage because people are busy and they just don't think about it."

For more information about making a blood donation or to find a local blood drive, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS (733-2767).

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