Winter weather impacts blood supply
January was National Blood Donor Month, and as January came to an end the American Red Cross tried to make up for a low blood supply, do in large part to winter weather.
According to the American Red Cross, "Severe winter weather throughout much of the United States has caused the cancellation of more than 14,000 blood and platelet donations since the beginning of January."
Apparently Mother Nature decided to give blood donors a break on Jan. 27, because 41 people from the Roberts area donated blood at the Roberts Congregational United Church of Christ.
Drive Coordinator Patti Robertson said they were hoping to collect 38 units of blood at the drive, but beat their goal, collecting 48 units.
While six of the blood donors were first-time donors, there were a few veteran donors at the UCC blood drive.
Doug Ackley, 78, of Baldwin gave his 17th gallon of blood at the Roberts drive. Ackley has been donating blood since 1951, but said the first five or six donations didn't necessarily count, since he didn't remember if the donations were made to the Red Cross.
Ackley said it has taken him more than 40 years to get to a donation total of 17 gallons and he plans on upping that total by continuing to donate.
"It's a lifeline. The fact that is helps somebody else is a bonus," he said.
Although Patrick Wobig, of Baldwin, is only 18 years old, Jan. 27 marked his seventh blood donation.
Wobig chose to do a double red cell donation. According to the Red Cross, "A double red cell donation is similar to a whole blood donation, except a special machine is used to allow you to safely donate two units of red blood cells during one donation while returning your plasma and platelets to you."
There are certain criteria one must meet to make a double red cell donation. Three criteria that are especially important are hemoglobin, weight and height.
The Red Cross says the thresholds for each criteria vary by gender as well as by the device used to collect the blood. Individuals can contact area Red Cross representatives to learn what the requirements are for the collection device currently used.
A double red cell donation is different than the regular blood donations. "During your double red cell donation, blood is drawn from one arm and drawn through a sterile, single-use needle set to a machine. The machine separates and collects two units of red cells and then safely returns the remaining blood components, along with some saline, back to you through the same arm," said the Red Cross.
Wobig said he chose to make a double red cell donation because it allowed him to donate more blood in the same amount of time.
Wobig's explanation for donating blood is simple.
"It helps people. It saves lives," he said.
While all blood types are needed, O-negative donors can make the difference between an adequate blood supply and a shortage.
The Red Cross says that, "O-negative is the universal blood type which can go to any patient regardless of their blood type. O-negative blood is often used in emergency cases when doctors can't wait to type a patient's blood."
After volunteering to coordinate the last 10 blood drives in Roberts, Patti Robertson is stepping down from her coordinator position.
Although she has enjoyed helping out the Red Cross with the blood drives, Robertson said her involvement in other things has made her need to step away from a few of her most cherished volunteer opportunities.
Robertson said she takes pride in knowing that she helped make a difference in the lives of others and she hopes someone from the area will step up and take her place organizing the local blood drive.
She said there are usually three blood drives a year -- January, August and November.
As a coordinator, Robertson said she usually started working a month before the drive to gather posters, send information to local press and find volunteers to donate their time at the drive.
"It doesn't take a whole lot of time," Robertson said.
Anyone interested in volunteering to coordinate the Roberts area blood drives can contact Robertson at 715-749-4221 or e-mail Cory Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.