Blood donations needed daily, but even more so in summer

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Shelly Birkelo
Thursday, May 29, 2014

JANESVILLE--The young man was bleeding internally from a car crash.

The blood loss was so great that the anesthesiologist was squeezing bags of blood into him during surgery.

"We went through a dozen units (of blood) before the bleeding stopped," said Greg Novinska, who was on the surgical staff at a southwest Wisconsin hospital at the time of the incident.

That was more than 15 years ago and just weeks before Novinska became CEO of the American Red Cross Badger-Hawkeye and Heart of American Blood Services Regions.

Twelve blood donors made a difference in that young man's life. He's still alive today, he said.

The blood on the shelf was needed. Giving it tomorrow for what's needed today is too late, Novinska said.

“That's why we always keep our shelves full and the hospitals stocked appropriately or this young man wouldn't have made it," he said.

The Red Cross provides 40 percent of the nation's blood supply and is the largest supplier in the United States.

"We service 2,700 hospitals across the country, including 46 in Wisconsin and 15 in Iowa. We have to collect 15,000 pints of blood every day to meet the needs of the patients in these hospitals," he said.

That's why Novinska encourages people to give blood any time but especially during the week of World Blood Donor Day, which is June 14.

The day raises awareness of the need for a safe blood supply and recognizes donors for their lifesaving gifts. It also comes during summer, which is a challenging time to get blood donations.

As school gets out and people start taking their annual vacations, the demand for blood goes up, he said.

"There are more accidents. People get busy in their personal lives and don't take out time to donate like they would other times of the year," Novinska said.

Blood is needed every day and particularly during summer, so this day draws attention to that, he said.

Novinska also wants the public to understand that red blood cells have a shelf life of 42 days and blood platelets only five days.

"That needs to be replaced constantly," he said.

The only way to fulfill that mission and keep patients alive, Novinska said, "is for donors to generously roll up their sleeves, take time, come in and give blood."

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