Red Cross blood donations take a drastic drop - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Red Cross blood donations take a drastic drop

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -- The American Red Cross is offering help to thousands of people dealing with the latest winter storm. Now, they're asking you for help. Blood donations are dropping drastically nationwide -- in fact the Red Cross hasn't seen them this low in at least a decade.

The shortage is also raising concerns in the Cedar Valley. The Hawkeye Chapter was forced to close its doors Wednesday, and cancel a major blood drive at the University of Northern Iowa.

"This past week we've had to cancel five drives and that accounts for up to 276 units of blood," said Amy Yeska, the chapter's Donor Recruitment Representative.

It's a major blow to their supply of blood and platelets, but Yeska really didn't have any other choice.

"You want to make sure that the blood can be used for a patient that needs it. You definitely would not want it to go to waste," she explained.

When they make the decision to close the donation center or cancel a blood drive, they're not just thinking about the folks who travel to donate blood or work at the center. They're also thinking about where that blood goes once it's collected.

"For our region it goes from Waterloo to Madison to get processed. That's a three hour drive," said Yeska.

Which is why its better to cancel the blood drive, and put the vans in park, then to risk a transfer ending up in a ditch.

"I heard about, 40, 50 cars in the ditch yesterday? It's definitely for the safety of the blood, and to make sure we can get the blood processed in time, so it can get to the patients in need," Yeska noted.

Notice, she said "in time." Blood and platelet donations have a short shelf life -- a little more than forty days for blood, and only five days for platelets.

While there's no immediate risk of running out at area hospitals, the supply is much lower than they'd like to have on hand if an emergency or disaster were to strike.

The good news -- when the weather breaks, Yeska believes donors will line up to give.

"It's amazing how people see one story, and they want to come in and they want to help," she added.

The Red Cross Hawkeye Chapter plans to open for donations Thursday morning. They're also holding a blood drive on Friday, from 10:00-2:00 at Parkview Nursing and Rehabilitation.

For more information about the Red Cross, or to learn how to donate, click here.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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