For information about when and where to give blood, go to www.redcross.org/give-blood.
To be a donor, you must be at least 17 years old (16 with parental permission). You should be generally healthy; don't give if you have signs of a cold or flu. There are other reasons not to donate, such as certain kinds of cancer, certain medications and travel to certain foreign countries.
To review requirements and to save time during the donation process, click the Red Cross site's “Donating Today?” box and fill out a short “Rapid Pass” questionnaire the day you're planning to donate.
There are some subjects that come up only when there's a problem. The blood supply is one example.
“The Red Cross has a national shortage that also affects the Fort Wayne area,” Rodney Wilson, communications manager for the American Red Cross Blood Services of Indiana, said this week.
It's predictable that donations drop during the summer. People are in and out of town and focused on outdoor activities. Businesses are less willing to organize blood drives with many employees on vacation.
“At the same time, summer holidays are when we tend to see more traumatic injuries happening. So the need for blood can go up ... at the same time fewer people are giving,” Wilson said.
The level of this year's shortage is about the same as in past years. “What's new,” Wilson said, “is that this shortage has started a little earlier.
“It usually starts to drop toward the end of July. This year, it was early June when we started to see a decrease in blood donations.”
The Indiana Blood Bank, which serves Indianapolis and many other areas of the state, is also in the midst of a shortage. So far, the shortage hasn't forced the Red Cross and other agencies to reduce blood supplies to hospitals.
It could mean problems later in the season for hospitals around the state, which depend on the Red Cross, the Blood Bank and other blood collection agencies.
“Right now,” Wilson said, “we're not yet to a position when surgeries have to be canceled. But if blood donations don't increase, that could eventually happen. We would have to work with hospitals to prioritize patient needs and those patients that have the most urgent medical situations, or life-threatening situations, would need to be transfused first.” Patients not in that situation might have to wait longer for procedures, he said.
Year-round, Indiana's Red Cross needs to obtain 550 donations a day just to stay even. “Over the last several months, each day has been a challenge, and we've had fewer donations than needed. ... We still have to collect the 550 that are needed every day, but we need more than that because we're already short,” Wilson said. Statewide, the organization is about 1,200 donations behind.
“If two more people went to every single blood drive than we anticipate, that would help us recoup the blood supply within about two weeks,” Wilson said.
So your help is needed. Even if you've never given blood before.
The Red Cross has two donor centers in Fort Wayne, as well as mobile blood drives scheduled around the area.
“Giving blood is a safe process, FDA-approved,” Wilson said. “When you give blood, it isn't harmful to you, it's not painful and it's easy.”