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August 26th, 2019

blood drive graphicROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times

 

Just three out of 100 people in the U.S. give blood, and the fact is there simply are not enough people giving blood.

The American Red Cross is launching the Missing Types campaign to urge the public to fill the gaps by making an appointment to give blood or platelets this summer.

During the Missing Types campaign, the letters A, B and O – the letters representing the main blood groups are disappearing from brands, social media pages, signs and websites to illustrate the critical role blood donors play in helping patients.

As part of the campaign, area drives are taking place June 18 at Satanta’s First United Methodist Church, June 19 at Sublette High School and Liberal’s Fellowship Baptist Church and June 20 at Liberal’s First Southern Baptist Church.

Red Cross External Communications Manager Jan Hale said this is the Missing Types campaign’s second year, and she called it an interesting, new and different way for the agency to engage people who have either never donated or have not donated in a while.

“I think it’s brought out some interesting aspects of blood donation,” she said. “We have great national partners who are helping us with it. We’re having a good time with it.”

Summertime is a particularly difficult time to collect blood for the Red Cross, and Hale said she still finds the statistic that only three in 100 people actually donate surprising.

“When you think about it, that’s not very many people to be donating enough blood for the rest of those who are not,” she said. “For me, it was just a startling statistic, and it’s one we have seen over the last year or so.” 

Hale said a third of the public has never considered blood may not be available when a loved one needs it.

“It’s one of the most common hospital procedures,” she said. “In fact, I believe I read somewhere recently, it was the fourth most common hospital procedure. People don’t even really think about it. That’s a reason for why they haven’t donated.”

Hale said Red Cross workers go into the summer knowing they will not have access to student donors, which make up about 20 percent of all blood donors.

“When they’re not where they usually are, we know we’re going into that time period without access to those donors,” she said. “It makes it a little bit difficult, and people’s schedules in summertime are a little bit different. The kids are home, so they’re running from work to home. They’ve got other activities. They’re planning a vacation. There’s lots of other opportunities to take time away, but every two seconds regardless of the date on the calendar, somebody in our country needs blood.”

Another issue concerning the urgency for blood donation is that blood itself only has a shelf life of 46 days.

“So we try in May as we’re going into the summertime to get as many donations in as we can,” Hale said. “We try to make sure we’re getting them the right number, but last month, we had a shortage of O blood types. It’s going to be a difficult summer, so we really would urge our blood donors in the Liberal area to make an extra effort to make these area blood drives.”

However, the short shelf life blood has is not a problem with units immediately going into use after they are donated.

“Right now, we’re seeing not as many donors as we need, so what blood we have is going right out for patients in need,” Hale said. “There’s really not an opportunity for us to keep any on hand and worry about that. What’s being donated now is being sent to hospitals.”

Hale said this means availability of blood many times revolves around the supply.

“Again in summertime without our student donors, we don’t have the opportunity, and that’s 20 percent of our donor pool,” she said. “You don’t have an opportunity to get blood from them because they’re not on campus. We know those times are always going to be difficult.”

Hale said workers with her agency simply hope people remember to put a blood donation at the tope of their list of things to do.

“Red Cross can’t make sure blood is available for all the patients in need without the help of blood donors,” she said. “This is why we do what we do. Why we need people’s help is to make sure it’s available for patients.”

Hale said one of the difficulties of reaching potentially new donors is finding new ways of marketing blood donations.

“One of the goals of the Missing Types campaigns is to reach those people who have never donated before,” she said. “I would put a special message out to any of your readers who haven’t donated before to consider it, consider making that first appointment, that first donation at one of these upcoming drives. You can’t do it at a better time, a time when it’s more needed and can do something that will have such an impact on someone else’s life. I can’t think of very many things like that we can do in our day to day lives that can have such an impact on someone else’s life.”

Hale said the Red Cross always wants to reach out to people, and the best marketing approach is to let people know every donation is appreciated and to also emphasize how important that donation is.

“We’re trying different things like Missing Types that we can engage potential blood donors to say, ‘We hope the process is as easy as possible,’” she said. “The need is definitely there, so we urge you to consider it and join the Missing Types movement. Be part of the solution.”

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