Collection workers have time on their hands as they wait for people to arrive at the Red Cross in Nashville. / The Tennessean
By Brian Haas, The Tennessean
The donation room was nearly empty Tuesday morning before lunch at the American Red Cross' headquarters on Charlotte Avenue with just one woman there to give blood.
And that's the problem.
The blood supply of the Red Cross Tennessee Valley Blood Services Region is lower than it's been in 15 years.
Red Cross workers say storms and overbearing heat are making donors even scarcer than usual during the slow summer months.
hospitals have not had to stop providing blood for elective surgeries,
regional and national Red Cross groups are worried.
about half the blood supply that we were at last year, nationally, and
in parts of the region," said Regina Raccuglia, spokeswoman for the Red
Cross. "This blood is used for emergencies like car wrecks, surgeries,
cancer patients, people going through joint replacement surgeries, heart
surgeries, organ transplants, premature babies."
The Red Cross'
headquarters likes to see 50 to 60 blood donation appointments per day,
but on Tuesday had only 31 lined up. The Tennessee Valley Blood Services
Region, which includes 70 counties in Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois and
Missouri, has been seeing fewer than the 600 donors it needs each day
to maintain its supply.
On Tuesday, Aimie Knight, of
Goodlettsville was the only platelet donor in the room just before
lunchtime. Platelets require two hours to draw and only last a few days,
making them far more difficult to stock and maintain. But they are used
in critical procedures involving chemotherapy and organ transplants.
a nurse at Baptist's E.R. and I know we need this stuff," Knight said.
"If I can do it, I'll do it. Seeing people that are sick, I just want to
The regional Red Cross' CEO, Tim Ryerson, said that
donated platelets have a shelf life of only five days and donated blood
has a shelf life of 42 days. But supplies are so low that their shelves
rarely stay full that long.
"Forty-two days on the shelf? You don't see that here," Ryerson said. "A couple of days and it's gone."
Summer is slow
Ryerson said summer months are typically slow, in part because
schools make up about 20 percent of the group's donations. But he thinks
extreme weather has led to even lower donor levels this year. And large
companies, which would often host blood drives, have shrunk because of
In the interim, he said the Red Cross needs a
sustained increase throughout the summer months -not just an initial
flood of donors.
He said that often, after the Red Cross puts out an emergency appeal like this, interest drops off within just a week or two.
said the Red Cross needs more people like Knight and Hannah Glisson,
who was the sole person in the other room donating blood Tuesday.
Glisson, from Louisville, was in town visiting her sister-in-law and
decided to donate since she had the extra time.
"I donate because
it's an opportunity to literally save someone's life. It's free and only
requires an hour every two months," she said. "And I know some day it
might be my family on that table needing blood."
In general, prospective blood donors must be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health.