Severe blood shortage prompting plea from Red Cross to donors


HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – The American Red Cross has issued an emergency appeal for blood donations as it faces a severe shortage. The organization is urging the community to step up and donate as the demand for blood increases.

Donations help families like the Bucks. Sarah and Christopher Buck’s 4-year-old son Winston is a happy and healthy toddler.

Sarah Buck can’t even imagine her son might not be here today had it not been for the life-saving blood from a donor during a critical surgery on his skull. Winston was born with craniosynostosis, a condition where the bones in a baby’s skull fuse together too early.

“You can see on his head how he had the scar that went across ear to ear,” Sarah Buck said, pointing to a picture of Winston post-surgery. “Just thinking he’s only 7 months old – he’s this tiny little baby, but he’s having this crazy surgery on his skull where there could be quite a bit of bleeding. Having donor blood available was key to the success of the surgery because if he didn’t have that option to have that blood transfusion while he was in surgery, it could have gone a completely different way.”

The need to donate blood is urgent. The COVID-19 crisis has led to a severe shortage of blood.

The Red Cross is working to quickly stock shelves after tens of thousands of blood drives were canceled because of the pandemic and natural disasters such as snowstorms, wildfires and hurricanes.

American Red Cross Regional Communications Director Jonathan McNamara said the demand for blood right now is outpacing its supply.

“As blood products come into the Red Cross, they’re being shipped out faster than they’re coming in the door,” he said.

The nation’s blood inventory is depleting as the number of trauma cases, organ transplants and elective surgeries rise. McNamara said the demand from trauma centers in Virginia and the U.S. jumped by 10% since before the pandemic.

“That’s why the public plays an important role in the Red Cross’s mission to be able to support hospitals here in our community,” he said.

The Red Cross is now making a desperate plea to roll up your sleeve and give blood during a critical time when school is out and many are planning their summer vacations after a long year of COVID restrictions.

“The summer is always a tough time for the Red Cross to collect,” said McNamara. “We have high schools and colleges, which are a really strong source of blood drives. On top of that, we have people taking vacations for the first time in a year and a half, and we understand that blood donation is not the first thing they’re thinking about if they’re packing their suitcase maybe for the first time to go on a trip.”

Donors are urged to make an appointment to give blood or platelets. Anyone who donates through June 30 can receive a $5 Amazon gift card.

“Every time you donate blood to the American Red Cross, you’re giving a piece of yourself to help somebody likely who you’ll never meet get the treatment they need to sustain their lives,” McNamara said.

Donations could help little ones like Winston live his life the way he was meant to.

“He can do all the things any other kid could do; it’s fixed,” said Sarah Buck.

Buck is a regular blood donor and encourages others to donate too.

“It can save lives,” she said. “I am forever grateful to the donors who donated blood to Winston,” she said.

The Red Cross is looking for businesses and community organizations that might be a good fit to hold a blood drive. Contact the Red Cross for more information.

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