Citing shortage, American Red Cross pleas for blood donations

There is an urgent plea from the American Red Cross: If you can, donate blood. 

After a rough hurricane season, the Red Cross is facing a severe blood shortage and reports an immediate need for blood and platelets in order to avoid delays in medical care. 

“Right now, blood donations are going out faster than they are coming in. We are urging people to donate; if they are eligible, come in and donate. We typically do see a decline this time of year, but this year we're seeing it earlier,” said Red Cross Communications Manager Sue Thesenga.

Blood donation centers see a dip in donations during the colder months, as cold and flu season hits and donors get busy with the holidays. 

Hurricanes Florence and Michael made the shortages even worse. During September and October, the Red Cross collected over 21,000 fewer blood and platelet donations than what hospitals needed.

“We saw many hundreds of blood drives being canceled because companies who typically host blood drives weren't open and their employees weren't there to donate. So that really did make an impact on the rest of the nation to help in unaffected areas collect the blood that hospitals need across the country,” Thesenga said. 

Across the country, the Red Cross needs more than 4,000 blood drives in the next three months to help keep the shortage from lasting throughout the winter. The organization is calling for more than 400 blood drives across the metro. 

“Right now we have less than a 3-day supply of most blood types on the shelves. The Red Cross does like to keep about a 5-day supply on the shelves, just in case of emergencies or unknown things that we may need a lot of blood,” Thesenga said. 

Fred Smith is “a regular” at the Red Cross Donation Center in St. Paul. He donates blood every two months. 

“Like clockwork, I come on Tuesdays every eight weeks and sneak it in on my lunch break,” Smith said. “My father and my father-in-law are both physicians and I recognize the need that people have for blood all through the United States, especially in the holiday season when a lot of people don't donate. It's really important to keep regular donation appointments, and then it becomes a habit.”

Smith has rare O-negative blood, which is universal and can help anyone in need. 

“It's sometimes hard for people to donate because they are squeamish or because they think it's not going to make a difference. But, every donation will make a difference to some patient somewhere,” Smith said. “If nothing else you get snacks at the very end of it, so there's always a reason to come in and donate.”

Local blood donation organization Memorial Blood Centers is also experiencing a shortage, which they also say is typical this time of year. However, this season has been worse because cold and flu season is hitting earlier. 

To donate blood through the Red Cross, click here:

To donate through Memorial Blood Centers, click here: