By LAURA CARRELL
Courier staff writer
---- — 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.
Imagine running in a marathon and one group gets a good distance ahead of the pack. Those who were lagging behind now have to go at a faster pace than the lead runners to pass them. The same idea holds true for blood donation, Winn explains.
"We would have to run 25-40 percent above our projected totals, and for several days in a row, to catch up," he said. "We can keep pace, but we're behind to begin with."
The need now is to focus on the three different kinds of donors: sustaining donors, lapsed donors and new donors. Sustaining donors are the ones who give on a regular schedule, but Winn says illness or travel can keep them from being eligible consistently. Lapsed donors and new donors are desperately needed to replenish the depleted supply.
One way is through January's National Volunteer Blood Donor Month events, and MVRBC is showing its appreciation by entering donors in a drawing for a $100 gift card. There will also be a recognition banquet in March to honor those who make a difference to the community and the region through their continued donations.
Donors of all blood types are needed, though some are more aggressively recruited than others. Winn says there are currently negative numbers for some types, factoring in product rotation and the current inability to keep with with normal supply. Platelets are also urgently needed to offset the shortfall. Platelets, a key clotting component of blood, can only be kept for five days, while red blood cells last just over 40 days.
— To see reporter Laura Carrell's Twitter feed, go to @CourierLauraC
It's easy to find out where and when to donate blood. • Visit bloodcenter.org and click on the "donate blood" tab. This will take you to the MVRBC scheduling website. • Go to bloodcenterimpact.org and find the list of upcoming blood drives locally. • Call the Ottumwa MVRBC at 641-682-8149. They are located at 1007 Pennsylvania Ave. and can schedule a donation time. WebRep currentVote noRating noWeight