More than ever, the American Red Cross serving eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota is appealing to Otter Tail County (OTC) residents to help with blood donations to stave off what is being called a national blood crisis. In fact, the nation is facing the worst blood shortage in over a decade, posing a concerning risk to patient care.

In a press release dated Jan. 11, the American Red Cross says that amid the national crisis, doctors have been forced to make difficult decisions about who receives blood transfusions and who will need to wait until more blood products become available. Officials say blood and platelet donations are critically needed to help prevent further delays in vital medical treatments.

Chief medical officer of the Red Cross, Dr. Pampee Young, says the situation is critical.

“While some types of medical care can wait, others can’t. Hospitals are still seeing accident victims, cancer patients, those with blood disorders like sickle cell disease and individuals who are seriously ill who all need blood transfusions to live even as omicron cases surge across the country. We’re doing everything we can to increase blood donations to ensure every patient can receive medical treatments without delay, but we cannot do it without more donors. We need the help of the American people,” said Young.

The Red Cross says it has experienced a 10% decline in the number of people donating blood since the beginning of the pandemic and continues to confront relentless issues due to the pandemic, including ongoing blood drive cancellations and staffing limitations. Adding to the concern is the surge of COVID-19 cases. They’ve experienced low donor turnout since the delta variant began spreading in August and that trend continues as the omicron variant takes over.

All blood types are needed now, especially types O positive and O negative, as well as platelet donations, to help reverse this national blood crisis. If there is not an immediate opportunity available to donate, donors are asked to make an appointment in the days and weeks ahead to ensure the Red Cross can replenish and maintain a sufficient blood supply.

“Every community in America needs blood on a daily basis. At a time when many businesses and organizations across the country are experiencing pandemic challenges — the Red Cross is no different. And while we are all learning how to live in this new environment, how we spend our time, where we work, how we give back, how we make a difference in the lives of others — donating blood must continue to be part of it,” added Young.

Supplying 40% of the nation’s blood, the Red Cross has had to limit blood distributions to hospitals in recent weeks. On certain days, some hospitals may not receive as much as one-quarter of the blood products requested. Blood cannot be manufactured or stockpiled and can only be made available through the kindness of volunteer donors. All of this comes as January marks National Blood Donor Month, a time to raise awareness about the need for blood donations when regular seasonal illnesses like colds and the flu, as well as winter weather, often leads to a decline in donations.

A blood donor card, driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and be in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

The Fergus Falls YMCA will be hosting a blood drive with the Red Cross Jan. 19-21. Fergus Falls residents are being encouraged to to reserve an appointment by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or you can make an appointment to give blood or platelets as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor app or by visiting RedCrossBlood.org.

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