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Red Cross: Blood donors decline as need grows

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

For more than a decade St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Litchfield has sponsored community blood drives several times a year, usually drawing between 30 and 40 donors.

However, at the last few events the number of donors has been significantly lower.

“It’s dropped almost in half,” said Richard Nesbit, a coordinator for the blood drives.

The church had 19 donors at its last drive and 23 before that.

Some people told Nesbit they didn’t get cards last time notifying them of the drive. Other than that, he can’t pinpoint a reason for the decline. But with the next blood drive at the church set for July 12 and need at a critical level, the church is trying to get the word out and get its numbers back up.

The American Red Cross put out a national appeal for blood last month.

“That means we’ve reached emergency levels,” said Meggin Heath, a donor recruitment representative for the Red Cross. “It’s not often that happens. Just everything nationwide has a snowball effect: The hot weather and the storms, having the [Fourth of July] holiday falling in the middle of the week. It all has a trickle effect and gets us to this level.”

A midweek holiday means some of the blood drives that would have normally taken place this week have been canceled as businesses close for the week and families go on vacation.

There were about 50,000 fewer donations this June than in the same month last year and blood supply levels are down about 10 percent for the same period. In addition, the need is up, as it usually is around a holiday when more people are traveling.

If the supply isn’t replenished, doctors could be forced to start canceling nonessential surgeries.

At the St. Peter’s blood drives, at least six to eight church members usually show up to give, but last time Nesbit was the only church member to donate that he’s aware of. He’s hoping a notice in the church bulletin will bring more people out. Posters are also being put up by the Pawleys Island Kiwanis Club in an effort to reach the public.

If the number of donors doesn’t go up, Nesbit said he isn’t sure what will happen.

“They spend a lot of time coming and setting up here,” he said of the Red Cross. “That’s not to say that if you only have one person give blood it’s not important, but if you don’t have that many people— it takes a lot of work to do this. Our goal used to be around 29 for us and we usually met that goal.”

The blood drive at St. Peter’s on July 12 is from 2:30 to 7 p.m. Donors 17 and older and weighing at least 110 pounds are eligible to give, as long as they haven’t donated blood in at least 56 days.

Donors who are 16 and meet the other criteria can give blood as long as a parent is present to give permission.

“If you are eligible, please find a blood drive somewhere,” Heath said.

Other upcoming blood drives are listed online at redcross.org.

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