Why blood donations gain importance during summer

A few days into the spring semester, University of South Carolina Aiken (USC Aiken) blood...
A few days into the spring semester, University of South Carolina Aiken (USC Aiken) blood donors helped Shepeard Community Blood Center provide blood and blood products to 20 local hospitals in the CSRA and the regional burn center.(WRDW)
Published: Jul. 18, 2022 at 3:52 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. - We’re at a time of year when blood donations decline, but there’s still hope because a new group is cleared to donate after years of restrictions.

Amid the typically slow time of year for blood donations, the the Red Cross says your help is needed.

It’s your chance to save a life, said Susan Everitt, executive director for the Augusta-based American Red Cross of East Central Georgia.

“The Red Cross is filled with everyday heroes who make a difference in the lives of hospital patients and inspire over 2 million people annually to roll up their sleeves and give the gift of life,” Everitt said. “It only takes about one hour of your day, and your donation can help save up to three lives.”

The local Red Cross operates primarily through blood drives at various locations. To find a local blood drive where you can donate, visit www.redcrossblood.org and enter a ZIP code. You can also use the donor app or call 800-RED CROSS.

Donations are also down at Shepeard Community Blood Center, which supplies Augusta hospitals with blood products for medical treatments.

But there’s some hope: A new group of people can now donate to Shepeard.

Many veterans and active-duty service members who were stationed in Europe couldn’t donate out of concerns they could transmit the human version of mad cow disease. The disease can be acquired through eating certain meats from infected animals – something that happened a few decades ago in Europe – and symptoms can take decades to show up.

The lifting of this restriction on Monday “is huge news for the CSRA” because of the large number of service members and veterans who live here, said Ashley Whitaker, director of community resources at Shepeard.

Shepeard works to keep the blood flowing through a combination of blood drives and donations at its centers. The locations and hours are:

  • Augusta: 1533 Wrightsboro Road, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday
  • Evans: 4329 Washington Road, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
  • Aiken: 353 Fabian Drive, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday though Saturday

Shepeard can be reached by phone at 706-737-4551 for questions or appointments.

Why are blood centers struggling?

Summer months are always a struggle for blood collections because travelers are on vacation, blood drives can’t be hosted at schools and people tend to make less time to donate.

“In June alone, we saw a 12% decline in donations, which is very significant and more than we have seen in many, many months,” said Rodney Wilson with the American Red Cross.

Wilson says the pandemic hasn’t helped.

“Lots of factors related to COVID continue to make it hard for us to collect enough blood,” he said.

The problem started during the initial COVID outbreak more than two years ago. The pandemic led to the shutdown of many schools, businesses and activities that historically have supplied the donors for blood drives. But even though life eventually started getting closer to normal, blood banks never quite recovered.

Wilson says more donors of all blood types are needed to prevent typical summer shortages.

“On average, the Red Cross needs to collect close to 13,000 blood donations every single day to support patients at 2,500 hospitals across the country,” he said.

Whole blood is the flexible type of donation. It can be transfused in its original form or separated into red cells, plasma and platelets to help multiple people. It is often given to trauma patients or those having surgery.

“The need for blood can come up unexpectedly and suddenly at any time,” Wilson said.

Wilson says donating only takes about an hour of your time to help others.

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