OTTUMWA — Calling the situation a shortage didn’t quite sit right with Kirby Winn, the public relations manager for the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center. The center has enough blood on hand for current needs, but he admitted inventories were lower than ideal.
That’s what summer does to blood centers. There are different disruptions at different times of the year. A big winter storm can wipe out a day or two. The holidays put a pretty good dent in things from mid-December to the first couple days of January. That’s a two-week event, though, not the three-month hit summer creates.
“Summer is week after week. Three months, about 100 days. It’s not like a snowstorm,” Winn said. “One of the ways we get through it is getting the word out.”
When summer holidays hit midweek, as the Fourth of July did this year, it compounds the challenges. Many people take a Thursday holiday as a chance to have a four-day weekend, even four-and-a-half if they duck out early Wednesday afternoon.
The same thing happens on Memorial Day and Labor Day.
“The most challenging weeks in the summer are when we have a holiday,” Winn said. “We could see 20 percent fewer donations than we would in a normal week. But we’re providing blood at the same rate we do all year round.”
Things start to rebound a bit once the holiday passes, but it isn’t until late August and September that things begin to get back to normal. The big reason is obvious: school. Even people without children in the classroom have their schedules set in large part by the school year. The way Winn put it is that there are simply “extra things that happen when kids aren’t in school.”
But there’s another factor to consider. Schools also host blood drives. A drive at Ottumwa High School can get 100 units or more collected in a single day. That makes a big difference.
Those drives are still more than a month away. For now, the blood center is hoping people will schedule donation appointments by calling (800) 747-5401 or online at bloodcenterimpact.org. There’s also a mobile app that can be used to schedule an appointment.