Area blood centers issue urgent plea for donations

By Dan Jacobson

The blood supplies of Chicagoland’s two largest blood centers have reached dangerously low levels, forcing the centers to issue a joint plea for volunteer blood donations.

“We’re making an urgent appeal to all blood donors to roll up their sleeves to donate blood today,” said Patrick Morand, president of LifeSource Blood Services. “The donors of our area have always been generous when a crisis occurs. We know that the patients in Chicago-area hospitals can depend on them now to donate again.”

Patricia Grote, senior marketing associate for LifeSource blood services, said supplies of all blood types are low, but types O and B blood are at critical levels. Both LifeSource and United Blood Services are urging all eligible donors to donate as soon as possible to alleviate the blood shortage.

Grote said blood type O positive is the most common type of blood and also the most used. Type O negative, a universal blood type, is used in many emergencies and traumas because it is compatible with all blood types. “We need between 600 to 800 units of type O positive on our shelves everyday,” she said. “Today we have 97 units.”

Type B is rarer and used less, but still in need of supply. “We have 150 to 200 units of type B generally,” she said. “Today we only have four.”

Grote said the uses of the blood are very broad. “Heart surgery, trauma, leukemia, cancer, burn patients and premature or newborn babies are some of the most common reasons for a need of blood,” she said.

While the blood supplies are at critical levels, there has not been any harm caused yet. Grote said fortunately there have not been any call-offs for surgery or threatened lives yet.

Grote said there is no single reason for the low blood supplies and the shortage is not just a local problem but stretches across the country. “Everyone is feeling the crunch,” she said.

Low quantities are partially being attributed to the tail-end of summer vacation. “Donations have not recovered quickly from traditional lows when schools are not in session and people vacation and the September cold spell gave a lot of people the flu,” Grote said.

“The only remedy for this current shortfall in blood supplies is donors. Volunteer blood donors are needed—not only today, but for the next several weeks,” said Howie Walz, executive director of United Blood Services.

Students from the Chicagoland area or who are looking for a reason to leave DeKalb can visit one of the donation centers in any one of the counties served by LifeSource or United Blood Services. Some of the counties are Kane, Will, Cook, DuPage or Lake. To find the most convenient center call (708) 298-9660 for LifeSource or (312) 751-1701 for United Blood Services.

Heartland Blood Services, a donation service based in Aurora which has blood drives on the NIU campus has several drives coming up. Drives will be from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. in Lincoln Hall Oct. 19th and 20th and in Stevenson Towers North Oct. 25 and 26.

Grote said the process of giving blood is simple, but there are no material or monetary incentives. “The incentive for giving blood is knowing you saved at least three peoples’ lives,” she said.

“Regardless of where you live or your lifestyle, I urge everyone to come out and donate blood because by the time we’re age 72, everyone of us will need a blood donation,” Grote said.

“The incentive for giving blood is knowing you saved at least three peoples’ lives.”