Red Cross urges South Carolinians to donate after winter storm cancellations

USC School of JournalismFebruary 19, 2014 

— Layne Bee sat back and clenched her fist steadily, sending blood from her arm through the IV tube and into the blood bag.

Off work for President’s Day, the Spring Valley High School biology teacher spent part of her Monday afternoon donating blood at the American Red Cross on Bull Street. A sign outside read, “Heroes needed to help boost the blood supply.”

Bee said she was moved to donate after she received several calls from the Red Cross and heard that last week’s storms caused some blood shortages.

The Red Cross is urging eligible blood and platelet donors to give after the storms forced 40 Red Cross blood drives across the state to be canceled, resulting in more than 1,300 uncollected blood and platelet donations.

Five hundred donations are needed daily just to cover the region’s 54 hospitals, said Jamie Muldrow, the Red Cross’ communications program manager. The regional Red Cross organization provides blood products to hospitals in 35 counties in South Carolina.

To help offset the weather-related shortfall in donations, the Red Cross is calling and emailing all eligible blood and platelet donors and everyone whose scheduled donation was canceled, according to Kara Dudley, the region’s communication programs manager.

“It is not a matter of making up for the lost numbers,” Muldrow said. “It is a matter of rescheduling with donors as well as having sponsors reschedule blood drives.”

Muldrow said platelet donors as well as blood donors of all blood types are needed now and will be needed in the coming weeks to help ensure blood and platelets are available for patients.

Winter storms caused the cancellation of about 265 Red Cross blood drives in the South and along the East Coast, resulting in nearly 9,300 uncollected blood and platelet donations. Before the last week, back-to-back storms already had canceled more than 1,000 blood drives in 34 states and Washington, D.C.

The Red Cross still has a need for financial donations, volunteers and blood donations, said Stephen Hudson, the Red Cross’ regional communications officer for the Palmetto SC Region. He emphasized they are funded only by the donations they receive and staffed mostly with volunteers. Without donations and volunteers, “we wouldn’t be here,” he said.

Hudson said that the storms forced the Red Cross to open 26 shelters in Columbia and Charleston. Emergency response vehicles were sent out to feed people in several of the affected areas, Hudson said.

Appointments to give blood can be made online at redcrossblood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

Bee said she tries to donate regularly, but it can be hard because she works during the day as a teacher. Her aunt and cousin work at the Red Cross and reminded her to donate on her day off.

“It saves lives, and it doesn’t take a lot of time,” Bee said. “Think about all of the people you could be helping in only the time you could be sitting at home watching a TV show or a movie.”

Additional reporting by Sarah Ellis.

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