National blood shortage ongoing, LifeSouth needs donors

Published 11:00 am Thursday, January 20, 2022

Practically every blood center across the nation is experiencing a blood shortage, according to Melinda Hinds, District Community Development Coordinator at LifeSouth Community Blood Centers – South Alabama District. While LifeSouth always needs blood, the need has been particularly great ever since the start of the pandemic. One major problem LifeSouth has run into is schools closing, making them unable to host blood drives.

“We really have not recovered from that fully because people are still not really doing what they were doing, and their routines are so different,” Hinds said. “The workforce is not back 100 percent. You still have half of the office at home and half of them there, so they don’t want to schedule a blood drive because they don’t think it’s going to be successful. And then, a lot of schools are trying their best to have their blood drives, but then we have some that are saying, ‘No, we can’t afford to have anything extra going on.’”

Hinds said a lot of people also fall victim to misinformation that prevents them from donating blood. For example, she said some people incorrectly think that if they’ve had COVID-19, they can never donate again.

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The most critically needed blood types are O positive and O negative. Hinds said O negative can be used to save anyone.

“If you had an accident and they rushed you into the ER … they’re going to be pumping you with O negative blood to get you stable and save your life, and then they’re going to worry about what [blood] type you are,” she said.

Hinds said people with O negative blood are encouraged to donate blood every 56 days.

Platelets are also critically needed. Hinds said platelets are only good for about five days, whereas whole blood is good for about 42 days. She said it takes more time to donate platelets than whole blood. Platelets control bleeding and are often given to people surviving surgeries or fighting cancer, chronic diseases and traumatic injuries, says American Red Cross.

Blood donated to LifeSouth stays within the local area where it’s donated, Hinds said.

“East Alabama Medical Center, East Alabama Health, we supply them 100 percent as well as the East Alabama — Lanier medical center, Lake Martin Community Hospital, WellStar in LaGrange, and Warm Springs, Jack Hughston and we have recently, as of April 1, started supplying St. Francis in Columbus, Georgia,” she said. “Now, if you come into the Montgomery area, we supply all of the hospitals here … and then, of course, the big, major hospitals that are in the Wiregrass [region].”

Hinds encouraged businesses and organizations to host blood drives.

January is National Blood Donor Month. This month, LifeSouth Community Blood Centers is giving out free long-sleeve t-shirts to donors. However, the organization states on its website that recognition items may vary by location. LifeSouth gives blood donors recognition items every month of the year, which is usually a t-shirt, Hinds said.

Donors also get free cholesterol screenings any time of the year. Hinds said donors can set up a donor portal account at https://www.lifesouth.org and see their cholesterol screenings for all the times they’ve given blood.

A handful of mobile blood drives are happening in the Valley area this month.

There will be one at Bluffton Funeral Services at 1011 North Lanier Avenue in Lanett on Monday, Jan. 24 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Two will be at the Kroger at 1401 S Gilmer Ave in Lanett. One will be on Jan. 28 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and the other will be on Jan. 21 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

There will be a drive at Chambers Academy at 15048 US Hwy 431 in LaFayette on Jan. 19 from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Additionally, there will be a drive at Johnny’s New York Style Pizza at 712 3rd Avenue in West Point on Saturday, Jan. 22 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Donors must be 16 or older, weigh at least 110 pounds and show photo I.D. Sixteen-year-olds require written parental permission to donate.

For more information, visit https://www.lifesouth.org.