Blood supplies in Northeast Ohio and around the nation are in critically short supply. While donations in the summer usually dwindle, the shortages faced today are to some extent the result of poor decisions made by the American Red Cross after Sept. 11. Rather than telling donors that enough blood had been given in the massive outpouring of support for the victims of the 9/11 disasters, the ARC decided it would be better to discard the excess rather than disappoint the volunteer donors. But slapping the Red Cross by not giving blood does not punish the organization so much as it hurts the Americans who may desperately need blood because of accidents, surgery or disease. This is not the time to forsake Americans in need.
Only about 5 percent of Americans who could donate blood are willing to roll up their sleeves to help save a life. So millions more could give, despite the reduction in the number of those eligible because of increased donor restrictions -- restrictions instituted to ensure a safe blood supply.
Some potential donors fear that they could be exposed to disease through the donation process, but giving blood carries no such risk. Others don't realize that their own bodies will replace the blood cells they have given, unlike the donations of organs which cannot be regenerated.
Yet others fear that giving blood is painful. However, a chat with any regular blood donor should reassure the apprehensive that giving blood involves only a little discomfort. And for most donors, the satisfaction of having helped another greatly outweighs the brief inconvenience.
Nearly one-half of Red Cross Blood Services regions and one-third of American Blood Center members are currently suffering from shortages and anticipate severe blood shortages in the coming weeks if people do not donate. On any given day, an average of 34,000 units of red blood cells are needed for patients in the United States.
Just about every day of the year, a blood drive is being held somewhere in the Mahoning Valley. The list appears in The Vindicator every Sunday. Tomorrow's paper will list 19 opportunities for local residents to help others. If you've never given before, now's a good time to start. If it has been a while since you've donated, why not get back in the habit now?
The more Americans who give blood, the greater the likelihood blood will be available when you or a loved one needs it.