Polar Vortex Leads to Blood Shortage

Jan 17, 2014

Last week’s polar vortex and resulting sub-freezing temperatures forced many Virginia businesses and schools to close, and many events to be cancelled or rescheduled… including a number of all-important blood drives. Now a blood shortage is a big concern.

Approximately 280 blood drives across 25 states were cancelled last week due to the extreme cold weather conditions… and THAT has the American Red Cross scrambling for blood donors and donations.  Kristen Hatfiled is with the Red Cross Mid-Atlantic Region.

“That has resulted in a shortfall of almost 8400 blood and platelet donations.”

In the Mid-Atlantic region alone, including Virginia, Red Cross chapters faces an estimated shortage of 900 pints. And while blood, or plasma, is ALWAYS in need, it’s platelets that are even more of a need due to their short shelf life.

“Platelets are the clotting factor in your blood and what’s different about platelets is that they only have a shelf life of 5 days and the primary use for platelets in our community is for people who suffer from leukemia or cancer.”

And while blood donation is still as simple as just walking in to an active Red Cross donation site, you do need to make an appointment for platelet donation and it takes a little bit more planning… but Hatfield says it can actually be quite an enjoyable experience.

“It takes a little bit longer, it takes about two hours and we have these wonderful leather beds that kind of recline back. We’ll give you a nice warm blanket. We have current movies that you can watch, wifi. I always joke it’s like a spa day, it gives you a chance to sit for a time, I always feel like life is so hectic, it’s just nice.”

As far as blood types on the short list…

“Well right now, the Red Cross has an urgent need for blood types O positive, O negative, A negative and B negative… and O negative is the only blood type that can be given to all of us, and it makes up approximately 9 percent of the population, and O positive can be given to anyone with a positive blood type. So type O is the most requested by hospitals for patients and type O donors are able to give to more people, it’s a wonderful blood type to have.”

And because January is typically slowest month for blood donations, the Red Cross has designated it as National Blood Donor Month… to remind folks to donate when possible. You can read more about blood donation at redcrossblood.org.