Blood donors needed to end shortage

By Brittany Abeijon

Blood donors are needed to help replenish the low supply at the blood banks in the Urbana-Champaign area.

During the winter months, people often travel and students are home for winter break, making it difficult for many to donate blood, said Ashley Davidson, donor relations coordinator at the Community Blood Services of Illinois.

These absences impact the blood banks because college students are one of the biggest donor bases, Davidson said.

As of Jan. 1, the Community Blood Services of Illinois was low on O-negative blood, the universal donor who can donate to people of any blood type. The blood banks were also low on O-positive, A-positive and A-negative blood.

“This isn’t necessarily a situation of panic,” Davidson said. “But we can’t hold drives on campus during the winter months.”

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Each year, thousands of patients in East Central Illinois – and approximately four million patients in the nation – need blood transfusions, according to the Community Blood Services of Illinois Web site.

The organization is the sole supplier for five hospitals in the Urbana-Champaign area: Carle Foundation Hospital and Provena Covenant Medical Center in Urbana, Provena United Samaritans Medical Center in Danville, Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center in Mattoon and St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital in Effingham.

When the five hospitals do not meet the requirement of 500 units of blood per week, the organization has to go to other donor centers across the country to have blood sent to the Urbana-Champaign and Danville areas.

Davidson said approximately 60 percent of people are eligible to donate but only 5 percent actually do; a person can donate blood up to six times per year, but they usually only donate once or twice.

According to the Community Blood Services of Illinois Web site, donating blood can save up to three lives from one donation because the blood can be divided into three separate parts: red blood cells, platelets and plasma.

Community Blood Services of Illinois is responsible for supplying blood to approximately 52 percent of the U.S. and Canada, while the American Red Cross supplies the other 48 percent.

Although the other main blood supplier, the American Red Cross, holds blood drives on campus, they do not supply blood to hospitals in the Urbana-Champaign and Danville areas.

“The difference between our organizations is that we are community based,” Davidson said. “We always ensure that our donor center is the full supplier of blood to those hospitals, and we will never outsource blood until their needs are met. Once that happens, then we outsource blood to different parts of the U.S. The Red Cross can automatically ship it to wherever they need it.”

All blood in the U.S. is donated by unpaid volunteers and as the only source of red blood cells, platelets, and clotting factors, blood donations are critical to life, said Dr. David Lawrance, medical director at McKinley.

The campus health clinic, McKinley Health Center, does not host blood drives, and it does not store or administer any blood or blood products.

“When there is not enough blood in the community, there are sharing arrangements with other blood banks that can temporarily fill a need,” Lawrance said. “But communities are supposed to manage their own needs most of the time.”

Lawrance said in the worst-case scenario, if blood needs become too great, elective operations that could require replacement blood or blood products have to be cancelled.

“Almost all University students make excellent blood donors,” Lawrance said. “This is one gift that truly does save lives.”