Blood need critical

Red Cross urges regular donations

By Jeff Hansel

The American Red Cross says the country's blood banks need immediate blood donations to bolster critically low blood supplies.

The organization has less than a two-day inventory, said Melanie Tschida, executive director of the Southeast Minnesota Red Cross chapter.


"When they have shortages, it does affect us," said Dr. Jeffrey Winters, director of donor services at Mayo Blood Bank.

The shortage is blamed on the July 4 holiday weekend. Supplies "were at their lowest point in several months," according to the Red Cross.

Winters said about one out of every four people will need a transfusion in their lifetimes, but only about 5 percent of those eligible to donate do. The number is higher -- 18 percent to 20 percent -- in Olmsted County. He said the Mayo blood bank collects enough blood for about 60 percent of its needs but relies upon the Red Cross for the rest.

During the holiday, he said, "there were a lot of folks who were in automobile accidents …; and they used a lot of blood products."

Although not at a critical shortage locally, Winters said, the national shortage is a concern.

"We are a little short right now, so it does make me feel a little uncomfortable," he said.

Most people in good health who weigh at least 110 pounds and are at least 17 years of age can give blood every 56 days, the Red Cross says. A constant supply is necessary. Winters said red blood cells that carry oxygen are only good for 42 days. Platelets used for blood clotting last five days. That's why it's important for donors to give regularly.

Olmsted County residents can call Mayo Clinic's Blood Donor Center at 284-4475 for appointments. For information on future bloodmobiles, call 800-GIVE LIFE (800-448-3543), or visit

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