Storm causes blood shortage

Published 10:31 pm Monday, January 8, 2018

Many Red Cross blood drives were canceled during the recent snowstorm, causing a dangerous shortage of blood supplies.

“Pretty much from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, we start to see a short decline,” said Bernadette Jay, external communications manager at the Appalachian and Mid-Atlantic Red Cross Blood Services Region. “People are starting to travel and have holiday plans. Then when we have cancellations, that really impacts our ability to provide lifesaving blood to our hospital partners.”

There were 45 blood drives in the Mid-Atlantic Blood Services Region that were forced to close due to Winter Storm Grayson, and that resulted in a loss of nearly 600 blood and platelet donations.

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While blood drives were canceled, the Red Cross had the ability to transport life-saving blood to the areas in need from other facilities in the United States.

“We do have the ability to send blood to anywhere in the nation when it’s needed. It’s a unique ability, but we don’t want to rely on it. We want to sound the alarm and let people know,” Jay said.

Unfortunately for the Red Cross, there won’t be an influx of new blood drives happening. While the Red Cross tries to make up for lost time, they have to work around the schedules of the hosts to set up a new day.

The Red Cross maintains a five-day supply of blood products for the country, and anything under that supply is considered a blood shortage.

“We try to keep on hand at all times a five-day supply of lifesaving blood for the entire country,” Jay said. “We have a team that monitors it consistently. Once they saw it was dwindling, it was time to push out the message to the public.”

This supply makes certain that hospitals get their delivery every day, and some of those hospitals are scheduled to receive deliveries two times a day. It’s imperative to keep a healthy supply of blood, because when an emergency occurs, hospitals will get additional units of blood.

“The need doesn’t stop just because it’s snowing and there are cancellations,” Jay said.

Three blood drives will be held in Suffolk from 3 to 7 p.m. Jan. 15 at Southside Baptist Church, 917 Carolina Road; from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 25 at Virginia Department of Transportation, 1700 N. Main St.; and from 2 to 7 p.m. Jan. 26 at Hillcrest Baptist, 1637 Holland Road.

There also will be multiple blood drives happening in surrounding cities. Dates and locations can be checked at their website,