CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Winter weather has led to cancellations of more than 150 American Red Cross blood drives nationwide, leading to an urgent blood shortage this season.

Ryan Edsall, account manager of donor recruitment for American Red Cross of North Central West Virginia, said more than 1,400 units of blood were lost between Jan. 2 and Jan. 10 in this region alone.

“That’s not including blood drives that have had lower turnouts and have under-performed due to weather,” Edsall said.

While that loss certainly hits the American Red Cross severely, that’s not abnormal for the season.

“Most winters, the American Red Cross goes into an appeal for blood,” Edsall said. “This is due to the holidays in November and December, as people are traveling and schools are on break, and then in January and February we lose blood drives due to school closings and travel conditions.”

However, the only way patients in need can receive blood transfusions is through voluntary blood donation and blood drives, making these vital events.

“Blood has a shelf life of 42 days, but is needed every two seconds by someone somewhere, and there’s no telling how much that person needs,” Edsall said. “Any one pint can save up to three lives, since we can separate red blood cells from the platelets and the plasma, but there are times when people need many, many units just to have hope of survival.

“And it’s even more important when you see the effects of it first hand,” he said. “Personally, I’ve not received blood, but I know people who have and I’m related to people who have. It’s not fun if somebody has to receive blood.”

Currently, the American Red Cross is in critical need for types O-negative and B-negative.

O-negative blood is considered the universal donor and can be given to any patient in need, while B-negative blood blood can be transfused to B positive and negative donors.

“I would say there’s no value on any blood type more than another because they can all be used for different things,” Edsall said. “One unit of blood can be split up into three parts — platelets, plasma and red blood cells — and that can go to save up to three people. So just because somebody has A positive, I don’t want anybody to think that their blood is not special or not needed as much. Blood is always needed, and we will always use something, some part of that to go to somebody. It will make some good somewhere, and it will save somebody’s life.”

In order to give blood, donors must complete a brief health history to check vitals and assure they don’t have any restrictions due to medications, travel, lifestyle or other concerns, Edsall said.

“In fact, 38 percent of people in the United States are actually eligible to donate at any given time, so if you can’t donate, you’re in the majority, and that’s part of the reason why we need so many people to donate,” he said. “Of the 38 percent I just mentioned, only eight percent of them actually do donate regularly, so a fraction of the population is providing the blood for everybody else.”

The American Red Cross has several upcoming blood drives, including:

— Friday, Jan. 12 — The Knights of Columbus in Clarksburg is hosting a blood drive sponsored by the American Legion Post 13 from 1:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

— Tuesday, Jan. 16 — The First Baptist Church of Shinnston is hosting a blood drive from 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

— Thursday, Jan. 18 — Four Horsemen Comics at the Meadowbrook Mall is hosting a blood drive from 12:30 to 5 p.m.

— Tuesday, Jan. 30 — Notre Dame High School is sponsoring a blood drive at the Immaculate Conception Parish Center in Clarksburg from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Walk-ins are welcome, although appointments are encouraged.

For more information or to schedule an appointment to give, visit www.redcrossblood.org

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