TRAVERSE CITY — It was a radio advertisement that did it.
Elizabeth Gaskins heard a plea for local blood donors in the 1980s, and she thought, “why not?”
Gaskins has given blood ever since, and now works as a volunteer for the American Red Cross to help out with blood drives.
“Blood is needed so much; there’s so many sicknesses, illnesses, accidents, that it seems that they need more blood than they ever used to,” Gaskins said.
Cold weather kept blood donors from giving this week, and that put a dent in blood supplies.
“It doesn’t only have an impact right now, but because of how long blood lasts, it has ramifications over the next month,” said Allison Beers, the public relations coordinator for Michigan Blood in Traverse City.
The Arctic temperatures forced the Red Cross to cancel the last blood drive in Traverse City, as well as about 280 across 25 states, and created a donations shortfall. Collections through Michigan Blood also took a hit, with only 44 donations coming in Monday when there are typically 400 statewide each day, Beers said.
“By not having the blood on our shelves, it severely impacts our ability to respond to a widespread emergency,” said Kevin Bavers, the executive director for the Northwest Michigan chapter of the Red Cross.
“There are a lot more accidents because of the storm, which very likely increased the amount of blood that was needed during that time frame, so when you have that widespread of an emergency affecting a large number of people, and on top of that we’re collecting less blood during that time, it really digs into our supply.”
The drive hiatus prompted American Red Cross officials to call for more people to give blood, especially those with O+, O-, A-, and B- blood types.
“The need is constant, it’s a short-term product, it has a short shelf life, and so we collect it and distribute it and it’s a continuous process,” Bavers said.
Red blood cells, used in blood transfusions, have a 42-day shelf life, while blood platelets, the clotting component of blood, have a five-day shelf life. Blood transfusions are most often used in cancer and surgery patients, Beers said. People can give blood at the Michigan Blood offices on Aero Park Drive. The American Red Cross will have a blood drive in Traverse city in February. Bavers encouraged people to look up the nearest blood drive on the Red Cross’s website.