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Red Cross entering holiday season with blood shortage

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Blood and blood product donations, like plasma, platelet and red blood cell donations, are even more important this year for organizations like the American Red Cross. The Red Cross said it is heading into the holiday season with its lowest blood supply in more than 10 years at this time of the year. Officials said they are in desperate need of blood donations to help meet the needs of accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for cancer or sickle cell disease.

According to the Red Cross, nationally, there was a 34% drop in new blood donors from 2020 in part because there were fewer blood drives at schools and colleges in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Anthony Tinin, a spokesman with the Red Cross, said the organization normally receives about 20% of its blood products from drives at high schools and colleges. He added that the holidays are usually a low-donation period because of people traveling combined with people dealing with illnesses in cold and flu season.

“We’re going from a time where we’ve already been in emergency need to a time that’s typically a low [donation] time for us,” Tinin said.

One challenge for the Red Cross, Tinin said, was that less than 3% of the population gives blood. He said educating people on why blood donations are needed, and teaching them why hospitals have to have blood donations on hand ready to use, is the main key to getting new donors.

“Certainly here, we’ve got a major interstate. Out here, there are always accidents going on. We have a lot of people in our area that go through cancer treatments, and a lot of cancer patients use blood transfusions as well,” Tinin said.

Potential donors must meet certain eligibility requirements, which are available on the Red Cross’s website.

The Red Cross will accept donations from any blood type, according to the organization’s website. The most-needed blood type is Type O. A person does not need to know their blood type to give blood, as the Red Cross will determine the blood type through testing.

Once a person gives blood, their donation will be further screened to make sure it is safe to give to a patient. Red Cross also conducts further testing on blood donations to study other components of the donor’s blood and to best match the donation to a patient in need.

Tinin said Paducah’s Blood Donation Center on Falconcrest Drive specializes in platelet donations, which can be used to help patients with cancer. Other types of donations, including whole blood, can also be made at the Paducah location. Blood drives at other locations usually collect whole blood donations, Tinin said.

Nanette Bentley, public relations director with Mercy Health, said while Mercy Health-Lourdes Hospital is facing a blood shortage, that shortage has not affected surgeries at the hospital. To help manage the hospital’s blood supply, Bentley said, the hospital has criteria in place for when patients receive blood. Mercy Health also encourages anyone who is able to donate blood through Red Cross blood drives.

Baptist Health Paducah also encourages eligible donors to give blood and platelets to help ease the impact of supply shortages. Baptist Health Paducah is also hosting a blood drive on Dec. 17.

For Tinin, the biggest advice he can give to someone who has never donated before is, “focus on the person on the receiving end.”

Donors are encouraged to sign up for appointments if they are donating through the Red Cross. Appointments are available on the group’s app or online, and nearby appointments can be found by entering the zip code where the person is looking to donate.

Paducah’s Blood Donation Center is open every day except Wednesdays. It accepts donors from 11:45 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays; 8:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays, 7:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. on Saturdays; and 7:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Sundays.

There are also other blood drives happening in the next few weeks. First Christian Church is hosting one on Dec. 6. Lone Oak Church of Christ is hosting a drive on Dec. 15.

Follow Hannah Saad on Twitter, @ByHannahSaad or on Facebook at facebook.com/hannahsaadpaducahsun.

Follow Hannah Saad on Twitter, @ByHannahSaad or on Facebook at facebook.com/hannahsaadpaducahsun.

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