“Every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood,” said Kristin Kiefer, donor recruitment representative for the American Red Cross. “One blood donation can save up to three lives.”
Kiefer noted that there is currently a shortage in the Southern region’s blood supply and as they go into the holidays, the Red Cross is working hard to replenish.
Due to updating computer systems, the Southern region isn’t able to import blood from other regions, making it even more crucial for local donors to give blood and platelets.
“It’s significant when we can’t get the help that we need,” said Kiefer. “But historically it’s always been this way in this region. We experience a lot lower donations than most other (regions).”
Kiefer sat down with the Ledger-Enquirer last week. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
It seems like the Red Cross is always encouraging people to come in and donate blood, but it always seems like there’s still a shortage. Why is that?
There is always a little bit of a shortage. Although about 38 percent of the population is eligible to donate blood at any given time, unfortunately only about 8 percent of those do, and not necessarily on a regular basis. Most people donate blood an average of 1.2 times a year, I think. If we can get everybody to donate one more time each year, like twice a year instead, it would actually bring us up closer to normal.
As far as meeting the needs of the community, we base the numbers on the regional goals, so we need to collect 1200 units a day as a region, and we’re currently not able to do that. The Southern region, no matter how great the day is, we actually import blood from other states to meet our hospital need.
Is there a particular shortage during the holiday season? Why is that?
The shortage does come into play more often around the holidays because people don’t necessarily have time, they’re traveling, and then you’ve got stuff like seasonal illness, the flu. A lot of people that would donate regularly normally don’t make it in during November, December or January. And the need is often greater because of increased travel and accidents and all that. So as the need goes up, the donations go down.
What are some of needs that the blood would fill? What do you use it for, essentially?
Whole blood, that would be like if you just came in and donated blood today that would be whole blood, that’s used for surgeries, trauma, accidents where they need to replace everything that you’ve lost very quickly.
At the donor center we have the capability of collecting platelets, which is a component of your blood. It’s the part of your blood that kind of glues it all together -- your clotting factor is contained in the platelets. Platelets are used for things like burn victims, cancer patients -- that’s where the majority of our platelets go is to cancer patients who are struggling with chemotherapy, and putting clotting factor back into their bodies helps boost their immune systems and gets them through another day of chemo.
Does all the blood that’s donated locally stay local or regional?
Yes, it is all within the region. Like I said, we have to bring blood in so everything we get stays here. It’s processed in Douglasville, Ga., which is up by Atlanta. That’s where our big manufacturing plant is, and then it comes back.
Are there any particular blood types you are looking for?
Currently, inventory sits kind of low on all blood types, but the one thing that we are always desperately in need of are the O blood types, the O-positive and the O-negative because the O-negative can be given to anyone in the event of emergency because it’s compatible with all of the other blood types. So if I got in an accident tomorrow and there was not A-positive on the shelf, O-negative would work just fine.
If somebody wanted to come in to the donor center, can they just come in any time or do they need to make an appointment?
If you wanted to donate platelets the process takes a little longer. It takes about two hours So if you wanted to donate platelets you would need to call and see if we have a spot, but as far as regular blood donation, anytime.
And about how long does it usually take to donate a pint of blood?
From start to finish, it takes like 40 minutes. And that’s sign in, do your health screening, donate and the needle stick-portion is like 6-10 of that, so it’s not bad at all.
How often can somebody donate blood?
You can donate blood every 56 days. And platelets you can donate every two weeks up to 24 times a year.