By RICK NORTON
Old Man Winter’s harsh blow and a belligerent flu bug whose bite is worse than his bark are taking their toll on regional blood supplies.In a community plea distributed throughout Blood …
Old Man Winter’s harsh blow and a belligerent flu bug whose bite is worse than his bark are taking their toll on regional blood supplies.
In a community plea distributed throughout Blood Assurance’s five-state territory — which includes 51 counties and 76 health care facilities — Medical Director Dr. Elizabeth Culler said canceled bloodmobiles and postponed appointments are depleting the blood bank.
“We have experienced a much higher usage this month than is typical,” Culler warned. “Increased usage, combined with drive cancellations and people being unable to come in due to sickness, has seriously impacted our inventory.”
She urged, “We ask that anyone who can donate please give to build up supplies.”
Currently, Blood Assurance’s biggest needs include O positive, O negative, A positive and A negative blood types.
Donors aren’t to blame for current blood shortages. Bad weather has forced organizers to cancel blood drives due to dangerous road conditions, as well as a fear that plummeting temperatures would keep potential donors at home, or in the warmth of their offices.
Also, the spread of a nasty flu bug (or bugs) — that health professionals admit is about 90 percent immune from the current vaccine — is sidelining would-be donors whose contagion is a threat by air and surface contamination, as well as the bloodstream.
“High usage has also affected what is available in inventory,” Culler said.
It’s a matter of math: When hundreds of pints of donated blood are used over the course of weeks or months, blood centers must replenish their shelves with hundreds of new pints. When demand outweighs supply, lives are at risk.
Culler explained the importance of blood donations, also known as the “gift of life.”
“Each donation of blood contains plasma, red blood cells and platelets that can be used to save up to three lives,” she stressed. “Patients undergoing surgery, receiving cancer treatment or organ transplants rely on donated blood, in addition to the unexpected traumas seen at hospitals on a daily basis.”
Like any blood center, Blood Assurance must follow a strict set of regulations; plus, the popular nonprofit also offers a series of suggestions that can make the donation experience more pleasant, as well as rewarding for the donor.
To be eligible to donate blood, donors must be at least 18 years old; however, those who are 16 or 17 can also donate provided they have parental consent. Donors must weigh 110 pounds or more, and they must be in generally good health.
“Donors are asked to drink plenty of fluids — avoiding caffeine — and eat a meal that is rich in iron prior to donating,” the Blood Assurance medical director explained.
Before making a blood donation, donors will be asked a series of health-related questions, and their body temperature, blood pressure and iron levels will be screened.
To schedule an appointment at a Blood Assurance donor center, visit www.bloodassurance.org, call 800-962-0628 or text BAGIVE to 444999.
Walk-ins are also accepted. On average, a whole-blood donation will take about 30 to 45 minutes. Other types of blood donations are available. Detailed information is available by calling or visiting a local Blood Assurance center.
In Cleveland, the Blood Assurance donor center is located in The Village Green retail and professional center. Parking spaces designated exclusively for Blood Assurance donors are available in the parking lot on the Keith Street side of the business complex.
About Blood Assurance: The nonprofit is a full-service regional blood center that serves 51 counties and more than 76 health care facilities in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina and Virginia. Founded in 1972 as a joint effort of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society, the Chattanooga Area Hospital Council and the Chattanooga Jaycees, the mission of Blood Assurance is to provide a safe and adequate supply of blood and blood components to every area patient in need.
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