By STEVE EIGHINGER
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
The American Red Cross needs your help -- and blood.
Blood donations are down about 8 percent -- locally and across the nation -- since early May, and Red Cross officials are trying to step up their blood-collecting efforts before any major shortages arrive later this summer.
"Right now, we're encouraging eligible donors to come out and give to prevent a shortage," said Red Cross spokesman Ben Corey of the Peoria-based Red Cross Heart of Blood Services America region, which oversees West-Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri.
Corey said there is normally a drop in donors during the summer, especially around the Fourth of July, because of vacations and other family-related activities. But this year's decline could be significant enough that the Red Cross could have a problem meeting needs in the coming weeks.
Because of the timing of the Fourth of July holiday, which was on a Friday this year, Corey said many sponsors across the region did not host blood drives over the long weekend or in some cases for the entire week. In an average summer week, he said, about 4,400 Red Cross blood drives are scheduled nationwide, but during the Fourth of July week, only 3,450 drives occurred.
In a news release, Shelly Heiden, community CEO for the Heart of America Region, made an appeal to give blood.
"Hospital patients continue to need lifesaving blood this summer, and they're relying on the generosity of volunteer donors to give them hope in the days and weeks ahead," Heiden said. "Each day donations come up short, less blood is available for patients in need."
Corey said all types of blood are needed, especially O negative, B negative and A negative blood. Type O negative is the universal blood type and can be transfused to anyone who needs blood. Types A negative and B negative can be transfused to Rh positive or negative patients.
There is also an urgent need for platelet donations. Platelets -- a key clotting component of blood often needed by cancer patients, burn victims and bone marrow recipients -- must be transfused within five days of donation. Blood donations can be kept 42 days.
"It's important to have a steady supply of platelets on hand," Corey said. "The ultimate reward for donors is the knowledge that their one donation may help save up to three lives."
The Heart of America Region needs a minimum of 500 donations a day to fulfill obligations.
Nationwide, the Red Cross needs to accumulate 15,000 blood donations every day to meet the needs of patients at about 2,700 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country.
Corey said anyone who wants to donate should weigh at least 110 pounds, be in good health, and be well-rested and hydrated. It is medically safe to donate blood about every 60 days, plasma once a month and platelets every one or two weeks.
Anyone donating blood in Illinois must be at least age 17, but 16-year-olds can donate with written permission of a parent or guardian.
Upcoming blood drives scheduled at the local American Red Cross office at 3000 N. 23rd in Quincy:
º 1-6 p.m. Thursday.
º 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday.
º 1-6 p.m. July 31.