It is a bit of irony that just prior to the weekend of one of the greatest tragedies in American history, when we were remembering the events of 9/11 which took nearly 3,000 lives, that the Wichita Red Cross Blood Center issued a request for area citizens to step up to save lives: by giving blood.
The United States has been hit by a number of natural disasters this summer, from the tornadoes that wiped out Reading, KS and devastated neighboring Joplin, MO as well as many other cities across the country, to hurricane Irene that unleashed its fury on the eastern seaboard, and most recently, the wildfires in Texas and floods in the Midwest and Southern states.
“Our blood supplies are very low,” said Jennifer Keller, community relations manager for the Red Cross Blood Center in Wichita. “We supply over 100 hospitals with blood as the Red Cross asks for blood to be shipped from the locations that have the type of blood needed, so it can go anywhere in the U.S.”
Irene caused the cancellation of blood drives which would have produced more than 2,700 units of blood and the ensuing power outages, damage and subsequent clean up meant that even more drives were cancelled.
A low blood supply in Wichita also begs the question: what happens if there is a disaster in Kansas? For every pint of blood donated, Keller said that the donor helps save three lives. The blood supply at the Wichita Red Cross Blood Center is at a 12-year low, and there is an immediate need in the central plains region for platelets, the fragile cells that control bleeding and are used by cancer patients and people with blood disorders. Nationwide, 44,000 pints of blood are needed daily just to take care of patients who depend on blood as part of their treatment.
“It takes one hour of your time, and for those who are needle-averse, that’s only five minutes of the process,” Keller explained. “While you’re here, you get all the cookies and juice you want.”
Typically, blood donations drop during the summer, and Keller noted that August was good due to some promotions that helped bring in more donations. However, the Labor Day weekend always requires additional blood for accident victims and with supplies already impacted by Irene, the need is great to replenish blood supplies for all types of blood. Platelets are critical because they have a shelf life of only five days and have to be replenished more frequently.
If you’ve never given blood before, this is a great time to start and not only do something to honor the recent anniversary of 9/11, but also to know that you are helping save a life, whether someone who is undergoing cancer treatment or someone who is injured in an accident.
“We have 15 blood drives a day all over Kansas,” Keller said. “These can range from drives at an individual work place to groups hosting a blood drive, and it’s easy to find out on the Red Cross site where a blood drive is in your area.”
If you haven’t donated blood in a while, there is also a points rewards program that enables donors to accure points for their donations of blood or platelets, then use those points to get items from the reward catalog or to use at the Best Buy Rewards Zone or donate to support our troops and their families.
To donate blood, you can call 800-RED-CROSS (800-733-2767), visit the Red Cross web site to set an appointment and if you want to see where there will be a blood drive in your area, visit the RedCrossBlood.org site and type in your zip code. Wichita’s blood center is at 707 N. Main in downtown Wichita, with hours from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.