'Urgent' need for blood hits St. Louis earlier than usual | St. Louis Public Radio

'Urgent' need for blood hits St. Louis earlier than usual

Nov 21, 2018

Officials from the American Red Cross are urging St. Louis residents to donate blood over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

There were 21,000 fewer donations nationally during September and October than hospitals needed, according to the organization. Locally, the Red Cross is down to a three-day blood supply and may need to start rationing blood it distributes to the region’s hospitals.

“When we get under a three-day supply we can’t send a full order of products to the hospitals,” said Joe Zydlo, external communications manager at American Red Cross Missouri and Illinois Blood Services Region. “Instead of sending 100 percent of the products, we send 70 percent to them. That 30 percent could be the difference between whether a procedure is able to move forward or not.”

The American Red Cross issued an urgent call for donations last week. Blood donations usually drop off in the summer and while people are distracted by the holidays, Zydlo said. But this year, the shortage came earlier than ever before.

“We usually save this messaging for right before Christmas and then it becomes an emergency appeal going into early January,” Zydlo said. “For us to do this at this time is unprecedented.”

Zydlo said he’s unsure of why fewer people donated this fall. But he said natural disasters such as hurricanes in the Carolinas may have affected blood drives.

Blood donated in St. Louis goes to 88 hospitals around the region in Missouri and Illinois. The organization likes to keep a five-day supply readily available in case of a national disaster or other emergency.

Surplus blood is sent to other regions with a greater need.

Paul Granneman donates platelets at the American Red Cross blood donation center in St. Louis. The organization has declared an urgent need for blood going into the holiday season.
Credit Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

“We hope that people will come out and make a blood or platelet donation as soon as they can before the holidays start to overtake everyone,” Zydlo said. “Hopefully we can hit the shortage off of the path so we’re not in worse shape as we get to January.”

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