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Blood Donations Decrease as Holidays Approach

  Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs a blood transfusion, and that need doesn’t diminish over the holiday season.

But the number of blood donations does decrease this time of year, according to Marianne Spampinato, Red Cross spokeswoman.

“People get busy with holiday activities, and travel and we also have longer periods when schools are out of session,” Spampinato said. “Businesses may be shorter staffed, and unable to support local blood drives as much as they do other times of the year.”

Spampinato said the Red Cross tries to collect about 600 to 700 blood and platelet donations on average each weekday, but they are closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

“We know we need to be prepared for people who need blood on a regular basis, but we also need to be prepared at a moment’s notice in case an emergency arises, because from the time someone donates blood until all the required testing, and labeling, and processing, it takes about two days,” Spampinato said.

Because of this, people can’t just wait to donate when someone they know is hurt.

“That may be too late if someone’s critically injured in an accident, or has a gastrointestinal bleeding or needs emergency surgery of some type,” Spampinato said. “Because it’s the blood that’s on the shelves that is going to help save the life of someone undergoing surgery or being treated in the ER.”

The Red Cross is looking to stock up on all blood types, but especially O negative, A negative and B negative.

“O negative red cells are the universal type,” Spampinato said. “So if you have these emergencies in travel that can occur during holidays, if the patient’s blood type is unknown, doctors know they can safely transfuse O negative red cells, until the patient is out of danger and is potentially cross matched with his or her own blood type.”

But she said O negative is only found in about seven percent of the population, and for people who have this type, it’s the only kind they can effectively receive in a transfusion.

To find out where the nearest blood drive is occurring near you, go to the Red Cross’s website or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.

Jess is from Elizabeth Borough, PA and is a junior at Duquesne University with a double major in journalism and public relations. She was named as a fellow in the WESA newsroom in May 2013.
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