Health

Cold weather puts a chill on blood donations

What They're Thinking: Blood center sees donations pick back up in March

Stethoscopes hang in the hallway at His Hands Free Clinic on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. The clinic offers free medical services to community members in various financial circumstances, ranging from those on public assistance insurance to people with high deductible insurance or those who have allowed their coverage to lapse. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Stethoscopes hang in the hallway at His Hands Free Clinic on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. The clinic offers free medical services to community members in various financial circumstances, ranging from those on public assistance insurance to people with high deductible insurance or those who have allowed their coverage to lapse. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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The demand for blood and plasma donations remains even though factors such as the holidays or seasonal illnesses can limit the flow of donations into blood centers, said Lisa Sparrow, a supervisor of donor relations in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Ottumwa region for the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center,

 

But Sparrow said the biggest obstacle to getting donations actually is Mother Nature.

Q: Are blood donations something people tend to think of during the winter months?

A: It’s compounded on bad weather days. For example, we had two high schools in our region who planned to have a blood drive (on Jan. 16), but they had to cancel blood drives because there was a delayed start and another closed for the day due to weather. Once that day is gone, that day’s worth of donations has passed. Blood has a shelf life, essentially, so we know it’s being used every day by the hospitals. If the blood that was planned on being collected that day isn’t being recouped that quickly, the opportunity is lost.

Q: What do you do when you miss those opportunities to get those donations?

A: When we have an opportunity like that where it’s either not fit for the donors or staff to travel to that mobile blood drive, we put an appeal out and we ask donors if they’re able to safely get to our donor center that’s open. Or, for example, if we are at a school and they are deciding to send students home early because of weather, sometimes we ask that school if it’s OK for us to stay and stay set up if there’s a community member who wants to donate after the students who have gone home. We try to get creative.

Q: What is January like as far as donation rates?

A: January can typically see a decline, specifically in that first week after New Year’s. Sometimes people still aren’t back to their normal schedule. It’s really cold usually. As an organization, we typically have about the same amount of blood we want to get every week, which is usually about 3,000 units, as a total organization each week.

Q: When do you see blood donations pick back up again?

A: March is typically a month that people seem to be back in their routines and the weather has thawed. It’s not as treacherous to get out and about. We don’t have to worry about schools or businesses closing early. ... Those aren’t things we typically have to compete with when the spring weather gets warmer.

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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