When the weather heats up, donations for blood tend to go down. Summer vacation plans can sometimes overshadow blood donors’ routines, but the need for donations doesn’t change and can sometimes increase, blood centers say.
“This is a very important and urgent time. The need never stops,” said Greg Bearden, Shepeard Community Blood Center’s assistant director of community resources.
During June, July and August, American Red Cross says it receives about two fewer blood units than needed at every summer blood drive.
Last week, Shepeard was in urgent need for O-negative blood, which anyone can receive. Other blood types always in need are O-positive, A-negative and B-negative.
Supplies also drop off in December and January, when people get busy with holidays or catch the flu.
There are several ways to give blood in the Augusta area.
Shepeard operates three blood donor facilities and holds mobile blood drives. The American Red Cross periodically holds blood drives, and Georgia Regents Medical Center has a small blood center open to the public.
“All the blood stays here (at the hospital),” said Sheila Tinsley, the manager of the Georgia Regents blood center. “We are small, so we can’t handle large amounts of people.”
The American Red Cross South Carolina blood services region, which includes Augusta, must collect 500 blood units each weekday to meet needs across the region.
Georgia Regents, Aiken Regional Medical Centers and the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center receive blood from the Red Cross.
Shepeard supplies blood to 21 hospitals in Georgia and South Carolina and the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital. It holds small blood drives with churches or employers and 10 large community blood drives annually.
Giving blood takes an average of 30 minutes.
“It’s so quick and so minor. Very few people have any discomfort when they give,” Bearden said.
The FDA regulates blood donations and sets requirements for donors, including a medical history screening. Individuals can donate blood every eight weeks.
After blood is donated at Shepeard, it is tested for infectious agents, processed and distributed to hospitals. The process takes two to three days, Bearden said. Blood has a 42-day shelf life.
Georgia Regents Medical Center transfuses about 20,000 blood units annually, Tinsley said. About 60 percent are used by cancer patients.
Family members of patients can give blood at the Georgia Regents blood center for a credit toward a patient’s medical bill.
Tinsley said the hospital avoids blood shortages because it accepts donations from Shepeard, the American Red Cross and other sources. The hospital has a constant need because of traumas and chronic illnesses.