After a winter that saw several cancellations of blood drives and seasonal dips in donations, Missouri Western hosted two blood drives to help address an emergency blood shortage.
On Monday, Feb. 13, the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Club hosted a blood drive in Remington Hall through the Community Blood Center, which raised raised 39 units of blood from 47 attendees to address this shortage. The Center for Multicultural Education also hosted a drive in the Blum Student Union through the Red Cross that raised 33 units from 40 attendees.
There has been a national shortage of blood since the beginning of this winter. Carol Meyers, Account Manager of the Community Blood Center in St. Joseph, cites seasonal factors as a major reason for this dip.
“We kind of anticipate it every year, and it’s due to illness, which is always increased in winter months,” Meyers said. “We have three major holidays where we’re not open and collecting blood. We have vacations and breaks from schools and weather, all of those things together are the reasons.”
Sandy Cooper, a Red Cross representative who helped run their blood drive on campus, emphasizes the impact of vacation times on the blood supply.
“Schools are actually 30 percent of our blood supply; so when school was out for Christmas vacation, we didn’t have those blood drives,” Cooper said. “And then, too, you have a lot of corporations and companies that are doing their holiday parties and things of that natures. So, scheduling a blood drive really doesn’t rank high on the priority list.”
Another constant pressure that the blood supply faces is the shelf life of blood products. Platelets last five days, red blood cells last forty-two, and plasma can be frozen and stored for a year. Meyers explains the implications of this on the blood supply.
“We have to make sure that we’re rotating inventory and keeping an eye on when blood was collected,” Meyers said. “Usually, if you have O negative blood and you donate that universal blood type, we go through that really, really quickly; but with some of the less prevalent blood types like AB negative, we’ve got to make sure we’re watching the inventory and rotating.”
These factors caused an emergency blood shortage this winter, which prompted the blood drives last week. Meyers says that the added attention has helped.
“We did call an emergency blood shortage, which we don’t like to do, and we go to the media. And that has sustained us,” Meyers said. “I mean it’s really helped because I think when people are aware of our need, it’s more on their minds and they’re more willing to come out.”
Athyna Nguyen, a sophomore at Missouri Western and participant in Tuesday’s drive, is willing to help people who are in need of blood.
“I have O positive blood, and they’re in need of it,” Nguyen said. “I like helping people and I like feeling needed, so when people say ‘Hey, we need your blood,’ I’m like, ‘Here, have it.'”
For students who wish to help address this shortages and others, Cooper recommends donating and communicating with others.
“In addition to donating, getting the word out, spreading the word that it’s a really quick process, only 30-45 minutes,” Cooper said. “We have snacks, and usually there’s promotions. You also can save up to three lives. Just thirty minutes, an easy way to give back and help someone, because you never know who may need it.”