By STEVE EIGHINGERHerald-Whig Staff Writer
For most, the festive nature of this time of the year is a joyous occasion.
But for the American Red Cross, there is minimal celebration. Instead, there is a great need for replenishing blood supplies.
"It's a difficult time," said Pam Shaffer, executive director of the American Red Cross serving Adams, Brown, Pike, Hancock and McDonough counties. "Blood donations are always down at this time of the year because of the holidays -- people just don't take the time to donate like they normally might.
"The weather has also hurt us. People don't want to go out when the weather's bad. And sickness has also hurt us. There are a lot of cold, flu and other illnesses going around. It all cuts into the donations."
It's no accident the Red Cross also labels January as National Blood Donor Month. Shaffer is encouraging all who can to step up as soon as possible to help out the Red Cross. Locally, collections took another hit when the "12 Hours of Giving" event on Dec. 21 was cut short because of inclement weather.
An estimated 44,000 pints of blood are needed each day in hospitals throughout the country to handle a wide range of needs. About 40 percent of the nation's blood supply is provided through the Red Cross. Nationwide, there are about 4 million Red Cross blood donors.
Ben Corey, a spokesman for the American Red Cross Mid-America Blood Services Division in Peoria that oversees the Quincy facility, said only about 38 percent of the U.S. population are eligible to donate blood.
"But of that number, only about 8 percent actually do so," he said.
There are two local blood drives scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 3 -- at the 3000 N. 23rd Red Cross facility in Quincy and at St. Thomas Parish in Camp Point, 103 E. Spring. Both drives will run 1-7 p.m.
"These blood drives will help boost the blood supply during the holiday season, and each pint may help save up to three lives," said Shelly Heiden, CEO of the Heart of America Blood Services Region, also headquartered in Peoria. "The only cost is about an hour of time, but to a hospital patient in need, time is everything."
All blood types are needed to ensure an adequate blood supply at this time of the year, according to Corey. Type O positive, O negative, A negative and B negative blood are especially needed.
To donate, call (800) 733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org to make an appointment or for more information.
A blood donor card or driver's license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.