What is a "blood shortage?"

What is a "blood shortage?"

The American Red Cross has issued several statements over the summer, calling on donors to give blood in the face of blood shortages. Shortages can occur at any time, though they typically occur during summer or the early part of winter.

Though people of any blood type are encouraged to donate, reports of seasonal shortages typically refer to O-type blood, according to the National Institutes of Health.

"The shortages occur primarily from increased use of group O red blood cells at times of decreased donor availability," according to one research report.

This is due, in part, because donors become busy with vacations and may not take the time to donate. The Red Cross strives to have at least a five-day supply of blood available in case of emergency.

"I think it's extremely important for anyone who's eligible to donate," said Lindsey Friesen, herself a frequent blood donor. "Something like 5 or 10 percent of eligible donors donate."

While donations of any blood type are needed, O-type blood is the most demanded, as any person can receive a transfusion of O-type blood. Other donations, such as platelets and plasma, are also needed.

According to The Red Cross, every two seconds, someone in the United States needs a blood or platelet transfusion. These include accident and burn victims, heart surgery patients, organ transplant patients and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease.

"People need blood every single day," Friesen said. "It's easy to spend a small amount of time and save lives."

Friesen has donated 48 pints, or six gallons, of blood in her life. She said while people might be nervous about donating, it's usually not as bad as people think.

"I've always heard the finger prick is the worst, since there's so many nerves, but it's not as bad as people say," she said. "Everyone there is so kind and knowledgeable. Once, I forgot to eat before I came, so I had some trouble, but the people there knew what was going on and helped me."

Upcoming donation opportunities can be found by visiting the Red Cross website, www.redcrossblood.org. Upcoming opportunities in McPherson include noon to 6 p.m. Aug. 31 and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 1 at Trinity Lutheran Church, 119 N. Elm St. A drive will also take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 26 at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ, 111 Pine St. in Inman.

"It's totally worth a small prick to help someone out," Friesen said.