OTTUMWA — Winter is usually a slow time for blood donations in general, but this year has been severely trying for local and regional blood centers.
Combine normal holiday activities with a polar vortex, and the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center is seeing just half of its projected donations in the first two weeks of 2014. Public Relations Director Kirby Winn says that some decrease in blood supply is expected during the December-January time frame, but this season has been exceptionally devastating.
"It's affecting blood centers everywhere but more so in the Midwest," he explained. "Midway through December, blood drives and participation drop off. We do a lot of blood drives at schools, but they sure don't have those when they're on break. And the community is much busier with church, shopping, traveling for the holidays."
Then the normal decrease is compounded by severe winter weather the area experienced, and the consequences are obvious.
"We start the year with numbers that are just decimated," Winn said.
MVRBC is headquartered in Davenport and supplies 87 hospitals in a large area. They cover facilities from Albia to central Illinois and from Dubuque to St. Louis. The blood drives in this region have taken a hit. If the donation rate doesn't increase soon, supply will be further behind than it already is, and patients in several states will be impacted.
"How many weeks of low donation can we take?" he questioned. "The need doesn't change — blood is needed for cancer treatment, for surgeries, in trauma cases. It's a challenge when donor behavior goes up and down like this."
Winn says that on Monday this week, there were 700 donations for the entire region, which was close to 100 percent of the projected total. But this isn't enough to make anyone comfortable just yet.