Southwestern PA in Need of Blood Donations

Jul 9, 2013

The Red Cross says it needs your blood today.

The Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region services 80 hospitals in 100 counties in six states, including nearly all of southwestern Pennsylvania. Spokeswoman Marianne Spampinato says they are starting to get a dangerously low levels.

Blood donations always drop in the summer, and Spampinato said with the Fourth of July falling in the middle of the week, donations were extremely slow all of last week.

The Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region needs to collect 700 units of blood a day to keep up with demand.

Spampinato said they usually try to operate on a five-day supply of blood and strives to never drop below a three-day supply.

“When you think of other products out there that we rely upon to live our lives ... If people heard there was only a three-to-five-day supply of gas people would be pretty panicky,” Spampinato said.

Whole blood has a shelf life of more than a month, so it is easier to smooth out dips and peaks in giving but it is much harder to overcome a drop in platelet giving.

“For platelets they only have a five day life span,” said Spampinato, who noted all blood products must go through two days of processing before they can be used. “You can see we only have a couple of days that those products can be used.”

For that reason, the Red Cross is making an especially strong push at its donation locations this week for donors to consider making a platelet donation rather than a whole blood donation, which what most donors give.

You can find a list of places to give blood here.

Spampinato said if more people would give blood, the cyclical concerns over the blood supply could be eliminated. 

Forty percent of all Americans are believed to be eligible to give blood, but only about 3 percent give at least once a year. Spampinato compared that to the estimate that 97 percent of all Americans know someone who has received a blood transfusion. 

The Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region does not service hospitals in Pittsburgh.