Blood donors urgently needed

Published 9:32 pm Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The American Red Cross is urging folks to end 2014 on a good note, or start the new year off right, by giving blood.

“This is a very difficult time of year for blood collection,” said Kristen Hatfield, external communications manager for the American Red Cross. “But the need for blood never takes a day off.”

There are a number of different factors causing the decrease in blood donations during the winter, Hatfield said.

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“With the holiday season, more people are pulled out of the donation pool,” Hatfield said. “Up to 20 percent of our donor base is made up of high school and college students. When they take their break, we feel that dip.”

In addition, unpredictable winter weather can result in blood drive cancellations, and seasonal illnesses like influenza — which has hit Hampton Roads hard this year — can cause would-be donors to be unable to keep donation appointments.

Those are among the reasons January is National Blood Donor Month. Observed every year since 1970, the special month aims to encourage people to make a resolution to donate regularly.

“This season, we’re asking everyone to do something that means something,” Hatfield said. “I can’t think of a better way to spend the day. You feel amazing when you donate blood.”

Hatfield said many people think only of trauma victims as needing donated blood. But patients of diseases such as cancer, sickle cell disease and other diseases frequently need blood, as well as folks going through routine surgery, premature infants and new mothers.

“Premature infants are born with about a cup of blood,” Hatfield said, adding they often need frequent blood tests.

All blood types are currently needed, but the need is greatest for types O negative, A negative and B negative. They are among the rarest types, and O negative blood can be given to any recipient, eliminating the need for type testing in an emergency situation.

“If you don’t know your blood type, that’s OK,” Hatfield said. “You can just come out and donate, and a couple of weeks later you’ll get a card in the mail that tells you your blood type.”

One blood donation can help save up to three lives, Hatfield said, because it is sometimes split into its separate parts and given to separate patients, depending upon the patients’ needs.

“We need to keep the blood supply stocked,” Hatfield said.

Donors can find a blood drive and make an appointment by visiting, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS, or downloading the Red Cross blood donor app.

Anyone who donates between today and Jan. 24 will receive a free T-shirt as an added bonus.