• Blood supply dwindling, donations needed

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    January is National Blood Donor Month, but because of the cold weather, there is a shortage of blood donations across the United States. The American Red Cross and the Community Blood Center are working to fix that.
    “Donations just decrease because there’s not many people out and about,” said Capt. Alan Vaughn, chief of laboratory services at Munson Army Health Center. “But throughout the year, the demand for blood never decreases. So, regardless of the weather, the utilization for blood is still always there.”
    Vaughn said though there is a donation shortage during the winter, the true blood shortage is in the summer when people are more active. Therefore, it’s important to keep blood donations up in preparation for the extra utilization.
    “All the blood that is collected through the American Red Cross or the Community Blood Center supports the greater Kansas City area through the hospitals within the region. If you have a major trauma or a surgical case that requires a lot of units of blood, that can completely deplete the supply within the greater area because these organizations contribute to the hospitals,” Vaughn said. “Each location is required to have a certain stock on hand. So, it puts them at the point to where if they have multiple traumas or multiple usage, the blood utilization can be compromised. There may not be that volume or they may have to transfer blood from one location to another to meet the needs.”
    Vaughn said it’s important to be well prepared to donate blood. Before donation, it’s important to provide the body plenty of iron — red meat, fish, poultry, beans, iron-fortified cereals — and get a good night’s sleep. On the day of donation, it’s important to eat a good meal before donating, drink plenty of extra water and avoid fatty foods.
    A person can donate blood as often as every 56 days.
    “It’s to replenish your blood,” Vaughn said. “When you donate a unit of blood, it takes 56 days to get your blood levels back up again to where you’re able to give another unit without any health effects.”
    Though there is a demand for blood donations, there are still restrictions that may cause a person to be unable to donate, including low iron, high blood pressure or recent surgery. For a full list of requirements and eligibility or answers to frequently asked questions, visit redcrossblood.org.
    “The best way to help the cause is to encourage people to donate. If you are unable to donate but you know someone who potentially can, just ask them. A lot of people, maybe they’re scared about it. So, somebody who has donated before, they can share their experience and let them know it wasn’t that bad and just get the knowledge out there,” Vaughn said.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Donating blood is strictly that, a donation. Nobody can be forced to give blood. Through the generosity of people and their donations, it supports everything from surgical needs, trauma needs, cancer patients and any other individual that is receiving treatment that may need a blood product.”
    Vaughn said it doesn’t matter the reason behind wanting to donate, it’s simply about the donation itself.
    “People will give blood for a multitude of reasons. A lot of people personally feel that it’s just the right thing to do,” he said. “Other people have known family members or friends that have needed blood products in the past that saved their lives. So, if they’re eligible to give blood they give that blood back because they know that it’s potentially saving somebody’s life.”
    To find a local blood drive, visit www.redcross.org, find the “give blood” link, click “find a blood drive” and input a ZIP code or sponsor code.
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