By DON CAMPBELL, Laconia Daily Sun
MANCHESTER — The recent winter storm made a bad situation even worse when it comes to the region's blood supply, according to Mary Brant, external communications manager of the Northern New England Red Cross Blood Services region. Blood drives were canceled all over the area, she said.
"The entire state of Maine was shut down, as well as towns along the rest of the New England seacoast," Brant said. "There's a ripple effect through the nation's blood supply system when an entire area is shut down for blood drives."
Just five blood drives were canceled in New Hampshire, but nationwide the storm caused the cancellation of more than 200 blood drives, leaving the Red Cross with a shortage of about 6,500 blood and platelet donations.
The Red Cross manages 40 percent of the country's blood supply. “Even temporary disruptions to blood and platelet donations can diminish the availability for hospital patients,” Brant said. “It’s the blood on the shelves that helps save lives in an emergency, and that’s why we’re asking eligible individuals to make an appointment to give blood or platelets today.”
According to Brant, when the storm hit, the northern New England region was already dealing with several critical needs, including platelets, which are the clotting portion of blood primarily given to cancer patients during treatment and always in great demand; Type O negative blood, the type that can be transfused to almost everyone and is what doctors reach for in trauma situations; Type B negative blood, the type that can be transfused to type B Rh-positive and -negative patients; and Type AB blood, the plasma type that can be transfused to almost everyone and can be given through a platelet or plasma donation, where available, or during a regular blood donation.
To sustain the blood supply, the Red Cross needs to collect 13,000 blood donations every day for patients at approximatekly 2,600 hospitals. While serving local hospitals is the first priority, because it is a national organization, the Red Cross can move blood products to where they’re needed most, such as areas hard hit by the recent winter storm.
Donna Dietrich, who works in the Belknap County Attorney's office, has been a platelet donor since 1989. After going through the trauma of a divorce, she was looking for something that would take her mind off her own troubles.
"I was taught that, when you do something for someone else, you feel better," Dietrich said.
She saw an article about the importance of platelet donations in the Parade magazine distributed with the Sunday Boston Globe newspaper. "The headline read something like, 'How would you like to give a child his dad back?' That got my attention," she explained.
For a while, she drove to Boston to donate platelets, until the Red Cross opened a center in Manchester. She continues to donate platelets every two weeks.
Dietrich stressed the importance of all blood donations, however.
"One pint of blood can save the lives of three people," she said
Platelet donation takes a little longer than a regular blood donation. Your blood is drawn, then spinned in a centriguge until the platelets rise to the top. The platelets are collected and then your blood is returned to you. Because the procedure does not significantly reducie a donor's total blood volume, and because it takes only three days for the body to replace the platelets, it is possible to donate platelets as often as every three days.
There are many blood drives scheduled for the Lakes Region in the coming weeks.
• Jan. 16, 2-7 p.m., Taylor Community, Woodside Building, 227 Ledges Drive in Laconia.
• Jan. 17, 1-6 p.m., First United methodist Church, 500 Gilford Ave. in Giford.
• Jan. 19, 1-6 p.m., Laconia Middle School, 150 McGrath St.
• Jan. 20, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Penny Pitou Travel, 55 Canal St. in Laconia
• Jan. 23, noon-5 p.m., St. Joseph Church, 96 Main St. in Belmont.
• Jan. 23, 1-6 p.m., Our Lady of Grace Chapel, 2 West Shore Road, West Shore Road and NH 3A, in Bristol.
• Jan. 24, noon-6 p.m., Common Man Inn, 231 Main St. in Plymouth.
• Jan. 25, 1-6 p.m., White Mountain Karate, 1412 NH Route 175, Building 1N, in Holderness
• Jan. 26, 1-6:30 p.m., Center Harbor Congregational Church, 52 Main St.
• Jan. 27, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., AmeriGas District Office, 1150 Union Ave. in Laconia.
Eligible donors can find a blood or platelet donation opportunity and schedule an appointment to donate by using the free Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Donation appointments and completion of a RapidPass are encouraged to help speed up the donation process. RapidPass lets donors complete the pre-donation reading and answer the health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, by visiting redcrossblood.org/rapidpass from the convenience of a mobile device or computer, or through the Blood Donor App.