The Red Cross is urging people to donate blood after this summer’s collections have come up short.
Colin Riccobon, spokesman for the Red Cross, said that if donation numbers don’t improve within the next few weeks, the shortage will become an “emergency situation.”
“We’re urging as many donors as we can to roll up their sleeves and make a difference,” he said.
Nationwide, donations are 8 percent lower than what was expected this summer, said Scott Hill, donor recruiter for southern West Virginia.
“It’s the gift of life,” Hill said. “That’s our slogan, but it’s also a straight up fact.”
People of all blood types are urged to donate, Hill said.
Hill said the shortage is a result of people going on vacation, the fact that July 4 fell on a Friday, and that college and high school students are out of school for the summer, resulting in fewer campus donation drives.
“Up to 20 percent of our blood is given by college and high school students during the school year,” Hill said. “In the summer, we ask that the individual population step up and meet those needs.”
Riccobon couldn’t say if this summer was any worse than previous summers, but did say summers always pose dilemmas for the Red Cross.
“Summertime is always a challenge when it comes to blood collection,” he said.
Riccobon said that high temperatures are a factor, but in the winter months, cold weather can also deter people from donating.
“Back during the winter, we were also urging people to donate, with all that snow we got,” Riccobon said. “We’re kind of in a similar position in the winter time.”
The Red Cross stocks hospitals’ shelves with blood of all types, which helps hospitals supplement lost blood in surgery and is also used in cancer treatment.
Riccobon said that though people take vacations seasonally, illness never stops.
“The need for blood doesn’t take a vacation,” he said. “It’s an hour of your time to really make a difference in a patient’s life.”
Information on where to donate and how to host a blood drive is available at redcross.org.
Reach Jack Suntrup at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-5100 or follow @Jacksuntrup on Twitter.