Local Red Cross Blood Supply Drops to Critically Low Levels

July 11, 2011

Red Cross adds emergency blood drives and asks eligible blood donors to make and keep appointments.

(Roanoke, VA.-July 10, 2011) – The American Red Cross Appalachian Region is facing a critical blood shortage and today issued an appeal for blood donors.

Many donors are busy or traveling, school is out of session and donations in May and June dropped to the lowest levels the Red Cross has seen during this timeframe in over a dozen years. Demand for blood remained steady during this same period, which is why the Red Cross needs people—now more than ever—to roll up a sleeve and give as soon as possible. All types are needed, but especially O negative, which can be used to treat any patient.

The Red Cross has responded to more than 40 major disasters in more than 30 states over the past three months alone – delivering help and hope to people affected by floods, tornadoes and wildfires. But there’s another, more personal, kind of disaster which can happen to anyone at any time if blood is needed and it’s not available.

“As a physician, I have seen first-hand how blood transfusions can truly help save lives,” said Dr. Ralph Vassallo, Chief Medical Officer, Heritage Division.  ”However, a critical blood shortage like the one we’re experiencing right now could have a devastating effect on a patient whose survival may depend on blood being there when needed.”

In May 2008, Justin Meadows of Hinton, WV left home for an afternoon motorcycle ride with friends. A few hours later he was barely clinging to life as a result of a tragic accident. Initially given a 6% chance of survival, Justin underwent several operations for major internal injuries and the loss of his right leg. He received 100 blood products during his treatment. Justin and his family readily admit that if the blood needed was not on hand from donations prior to his accident he would not have survived.

Justin’s story highlights just how important each and every blood donation can be. Because of that, the Red Cross is adding blood drive operations and reaching out to eligible blood donors, sponsors and community leaders to ask them to recruit blood donors to help meet the needs of patients in communities across the United States.

The Red Cross Appalachian Blood Services Region provides lifesaving blood to 37 hospitals and must have over 300 people give blood and platelets each weekday to meet hospital demand. Accident victims, as well as patients with cancer, sickle cell disease, blood disorders and other illnesses receive lifesaving transfusions every day. There is no substitute for blood and volunteer donors are the only source.

Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental permission in some states), meet weight and height requirements (110 pounds or more, depending on their height) and are in generally good health may be eligible to give blood. Please bring your Red Cross blood donor card or other form of positive ID when you come to donate.

Eligible blood donors are asked to please call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org to find a blood drive and to make an appointment. 

Please Note: Red Cross representatives are available for interviews with the media.  Please contact the communications representative listed above to arrange interviews or access to blood drives for members of the media. 

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org