SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The American Red Cross says there is an urgent need Tuesday for blood donations. Intense heat and canceled events are working against the organization now faced with a growing demand for blood.
Rising temperatures slow down blood donations every summer. But when you couple that with rising coronavirus cases, the slow down is multiplied. Now that hospitals around the country are operating again at full-speed, there is a 30 percent increase in demand for blood donations.
“That has really prompted us to shift how and where we can collect blood,” said Vaia Lasky, the Southern Regional Director of Biomedical Services at Red Cross.
For now, she says business and university closings have canceled mobile drives. There are also capacity requirements at permanent sites.
“The demand is there, so we still need to be able to collect blood and that… has been really limited since March,” said Lasky.
If you do choose to donate blood, Red Cross will test you for COVID-19 antibodies: a protective protein your body develops in response to the virus. It is not meant to be a diagnostic test, but Lasky says it has other benefits.
“It informs them whether they have been exposed in the past,” she explained.
It also helps doctors at Memorial Health who are giving those antibodies — or convalescent plasma — to patients who are very sick with COVID-19. Doctors touted its possibility of success when they launched the program in April.
“Usually, they’re quite sick. They’re in extremes, which means we don’t have a lot of other options or other options have failed,” said Memorial Health Lab Medical Director Dr. Charles Todd Brouker of the patients.
So far, Memorial Health says they have treated 23 patients with convalescent plasma. Associate Chief Medical Officer Dr. Stephen Thacker says some patients had “significant improvement in their symptoms.”
“Every donor is appreciated, every drop of blood is appreciated and precious,” said Lasky. “And we’re just thankful to be able to participate in the community this way.”
If you would like to donate blood, you can make an appointment online. The Red Cross says it is practicing social distancing and staff are extensively screening donors for symptoms of coronavirus.
Tanger Outlets is hosting an donor event on Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Suite 220 near Metro Diner.