Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood, but this year a massive nationwide shortage is putting lives at risk.

According to the American Red Cross, severe winter weather and devastating storms have caused scheduled blood drives to be canceled, resulting in more than 5,000 blood and platelet donations to go uncollected. Coupled with the increased need for blood during the holidays and the recent flu outbreak, there were 28,000 fewer donations collected for what was needed in November and December.

This shortfall is tremendous considering that about 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the U.S., according to the American Red Cross.

Even temporary disruptions in donations can have long-reaching consequences and impact the availability of blood and platelets for hospital patients. In Alabama, many blood collection centers have reported critically low levels and have even declared an emergency.

Long-term care reaches out

In response to this dire situation, the nation’s long-term care facilities and support businesses have stepped in to help save lives. Turenne PharMedCo, a long-term healthcare service company, turned to its team to help boost blood supplies during a daylong drive held at its headquarters in Montgomery, AL. Twenty-seven employees visited the bloodmobile from LifeSouth Community Blood Center to donate blood and platelets. PharMedCo’s donations helped LifeSouth surpass its daily goal of 25 donations.

“Our company goal was to get 17 donors. It shows a tremendous dedication to the cause that our people went beyond that and helped LifeSouth pass its goal for the whole day,” said Lauren Wright, director of human resources.

McGuffey Healthcare, a skilled nursing facility in Gadsden, AL, also opened its doors to help replenish blood supplies during a drive for Blood Assurance. Open to employees and the public, 32 volunteers registered to give blood and 28 units were collected. The facility has had blood drives in the past, but this one was particularly important.

“We all work in the healthcare community so we know how critical the need for blood and platelets is right now,” said McGuffey Administrator April Conley. “Giving blood is a small action on our part, but it will help a lot of people. It’s really important that we all pull together as an industry and do what we can.”

Donors needed

While all blood types are urgently needed, there is a more critical need for the following blood and donation types right now:

Type O negative: This blood type can be transfused to almost anyone, and is what doctors reach for in trauma situations.

Type B negative: This blood type can be transfused to both type B positive and B negative patients.

Type AB: This plasma type can be transfused to almost anyone and can be donated through a platelet or plasma donation.

What can you do?

Hosting a blood drive is a simple way for facilities and long-term care businesses to make a great impact on the current shortage. They are easily organized and most collection centers will bring everything needed to be successful to your organization. The drive can be inside your building or held on a blood donation vehicle parked outside.

If hosting a blood drive is not an option, volunteering to make individual donations is always an opportunity to help.

To find a collection center and to schedule an appointment to donate, you can contact the American Red Cross at www.redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

Teri R. Sumbry, MA, is the communications and public relations specialist for Turenne PharMedCo, a Montgomery, AL-based provider of pharmacy and medical supply solutions proudly serving the full continuum of post-acute care.