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Blood donations cool as summer heats up

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Shelly Birkelo
July 3, 2012

— Chemotherapy drains Yvonne Cunzenheim, but she feels better after a transfusion of red blood cells.

"I've got more energy. I'm peppier and feel like doing things. It just perks me up," the 76-year-old Evansville woman said.

Her kidney cancer has spread to her lungs, and she's received eight units of red blood cells in six months at St. Mary's Janesville Hospital.

When her blood count is low, she knows it.

"It starts in my legs. They get so heavy. I'm tired and just wore out," she said.

Cunzenheim is grateful for those who donate blood during American Red Cross blood drives that supply more than 40 percent of the nation's blood supply at more than 3,000 hospitals and transfusion centers.

To keep up with demand, the Badger-Hawkeye Blood Services Region that serves Wisconsin, eastern Iowa and upper Michigan, must collect about 600 pints a day, Greg Novinska, CEO of the region, said in a news release.

But that isn't happening.

The American Red Cross blood supply has reached emergency lows with 50,000 fewer donations than expected in June. The shortfall means half as many blood products are in inventory compared to the same time last year.

The Red Cross is making a plea to all eligible donors to roll up a sleeve and give as soon as possible because all types of blood—especially O positive, O negative, B negative and A negative—are needed to meet patient demand this summer.

Janet Jass was donating Thursday morning during an American Red Cross blood drive at Rotary Botanical Gardens.

The Janesville woman began donating blood when she was 16 with her father, Marvin Hansen, Edgerton, and reached a 102-pint milestone Thursday.

"As long as I'm healthy, this is my way of giving back. Someday I'm going to need it," she said.

John Pearse, Janesville, who also was at Thursday's blood drive, said he started donating blood in 1993 after moving to Janesville. He gives every two months.

"It always seems like summer is a high-demand time for blood," he said.

He makes sure to adhere to his schedule during the summer.

"It just seems like a good thing to do, is easy, and the whole process takes less than an hour," he said.

Diana Libke, Janesville, had heard about the blood shortage, but that's not what prompted the first-time donor to give blood Thursday.

"I've always wanted to give, but it never worked with my schedule. I'm off this summer and thought the Rotary Gardens location would be a nice, peaceful place to give blood," she said.

"It was a lot better than I expected," Libke said. "It didn't hurt at all. It went really fast, and everybody was nice."

A number of factors have contributed to this year's drop in donations, including:

n An unseasonably early start to spring, meaning many regular donors got an early start on summer activities and didn't take the time to give blood.

n A reduction in the number of scheduled Red Cross blood drives because of this year's mid-week Independence Day holiday. Many sponsors, especially businesses, weren't able to host drives with employees taking extended vacations.

Patients don't get a holiday from needing blood products. Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs a blood transfusion.

"There is always the chance that a physician could postpone an elective surgery if the needed blood products aren't readily available, or in a worst case scenario, have to forego a more serious procedure because of a shortage of blood," Novinska said.

"Our goal is to ensure that doesn't happen."


 
 

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