PINELLAS COUNTY – Local blood supplies were so low at the first of January that officials at Florida Blood Services were concerned there could be a crisis as need continued to outpace donations.
"Our blood supply began to drop during the holidays," said J.B. Gaskins, FBS vice president. "Since the new year began, patient usage has increased dramatically and donations have not.”
During the first week of January, FBS shipped 747 more pints of blood to local hospitals than were donated. On Feb. 9, 591 pints of blood were delivered, but only 316 pints were donated.
“We need more of our local citizens to roll up their sleeve and support our community's needs," Gaskins said.
As of Tuesday, the situation wasn't as grim with Florida Blood Services reporting that supplies were sufficient, meaning more than a three day supply was available for blood types O positive, A negative and AB positive. Low supplies, a two to three day supply, was listed for types A positive and B positive. The need was still critical, less than a two day supply available, for types O negative, B negative and AB negative.
Blood is traditionally in short supply during the winter months due to the holidays, travel schedules, inclement weather and illness. Traditionally, blood centers have a hard time getting enough donations in January. A reduction in turnout can put the nation’s blood inventory at a critical low, which is the reason that the Pinellas County Health Department is joining with FBS and other blood banks across the nation to increase awareness during National Blood Donor Month.
FBS provides for the blood needs of patients at 38 hospitals in Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco and Pinellas counties thanks to volunteer blood donors, and more than 750 donations are required daily, according to information found at www.fbsblood.org.
Generally, healthy people at least 16 years of age (with parental permission) or older who weigh at least 110 pounds can be blood donors. Statistics show that only about 5 percent of those eligible to donate do so.
During blood donor month, organizers promote the message that “a blood donation truly is a ‘gift of life’ that a healthy individual can give to others in their community who are sick or injured.”
It takes about an hour to make a donation of one pint of blood that that can be separated into four individual components that could help save multiple lives.
Red blood cells can be extracted for use by hospitals to treat trauma or surgical patients. Blood plasma can be used for patients who have clotting problems. Platelets are used to clot the blood of patients with cuts or open wounds and are often used in the treatment of cancer and transplant patients. The fourth component, cryoprecipitated anti-hemophilic factor, also is used for clotting.
In a recent study supported by the National Blood Foundation, more than 5,000 individuals who were current blood donors at the time or who had given blood in the past were asked why they donate blood. Nearly 75 percent said that they give blood to help others. Other responses included giving blood to feel better about themselves and giving blood support the local community and hospitals. Some said they give blood to pay back for the times they or their family have needed blood.
Regulations in the United States allow people to donate whole blood once every 56 days. The waiting period between donations can be different for other blood components. For example, donating only platelets requires only a three day wait before a person can give again. Donating two units of red blood cells doubles the waiting period to 112 days.
FBS has donor centers located throughout the county and blood drives take place almost every day. Prospective donors can call 1-800-682-5663 or visit www.fbsblood.org donor center and blood mobile locations and other donor information.