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American Red Cross issues call for blood donations to counter summer shortfall

 blood donors
The Red Cross says, nationally, it has 50,000 fewer donations than it should have at this point during the summer months.

The American Red Cross has added an incentive to encourage people to give blood throughout July and August to avoid a national blood shortage. The Red Cross says it's received 50,000 fewer donations than needed nationally during the past few months.

“Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood and it’s not something that can be manufactured. It only comes from volunteer donors,” said Christina Peters, the Northeast Ohio regional communications manager for the American Red Cross, “so when we see less donations coming in it concerns us because we want to be prepared for emergencies that could happen at any time.”

The drop in donations was expected as the number of donations typically decreases in the summer months due to people traveling more and students being out of school. About 20% of the blood collected by the American Red Cross comes from high school and college students, Peters said. But the continuation of the trend has caused more concern this year.

“Because it is something that has continued and we haven’t seen it get better, we want to get the word out now that we need people,” she said. “We don’t want to be in a blood shortage.”

Blood donated in Northeast Ohio is processed at a center in Cleveland. During disasters, this blood may be sent to other parts of the country if requested, Peters said. However, it is largely used in local hospitals.

“The goal is always to meet our local needs first,” she said.

And because blood cannot be synthetically created, donations from community members are the only way to ensure a steady supply, Peters said.

“The ability to have to have a strong local blood supply is entirely dependent on the community,” Peters said. “So when you’re talking about Northeast Ohio where they have so many amazing medical facilities, all of those facilities are depending on the community to step forward and give blood on a regular basis.”

To avoid the shortage, the American Red Cross encourages everyone to donate blood even if they have never done so before because most people think it is worse than it actually is, Peters said. The entire process takes about an hour from start to finish and the actual drawing of the blood takes 10 minutes or less, she said.

“If you can focus on those patients that you’re helping,” Peters said, “it really helps put everything in perspective and you realize you are making a lifesaving difference.”

To encourage community members to give blood, those who donate between July 12 and August 12 will be entered in a drawing for a three-night trip to New York for a shark dive experience at the Long Island Aquarium.

Donors can make an appointment to donate by searching for locations on redcrossblood.org or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.

Jenna Bal was a news intern at Ideastream Public Media from January 2023 to May 2024.