While cold weather and the flu are already an unpleasant coupling to many folks, the two combined have also caused a critical shortage in blood donations nationally and locally, according to officials from the American Red Cross.
“This year, the flu has been just rampant,” said Kyle Kriegl, executive director of the American Red Cross’ northwestern Wisconsin chapter. “We have had a lot of inclement weather, and the flu has caused a lot of people to not be able to donate.”
Nationwide, severe weather forced 200 blood drives to cancel since the start of the month, causing more than 6,500 blood and platelet donations to go uncollected, Kriegl said. Normally, he said, the Red Cross needs to collect 13,000 blood and platelet donations for patients each day.
“Even temporary disruptions to blood and platelet donations can diminish the availability for hospital patients,” said Sue Thesenga, communications manager for the local Red Cross Blood Services Region. “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.”
While serving local hospitals is the first priority, the Red Cross can move blood products to where they are needed most, she said. This allows generous donors throughout the country to contribute to the national blood supply and potentially help patients locally and in storm-affected areas.
Blood types most needed locally are O negative and B negative, Kriegl said.
Following a warm spurt, temperatures dropped again Friday — the low was projected at 14 degrees below zero. However, a few natives didn’t let the weather keep them from donating.
Dan Solberg of Chippewa Falls was one of a small group of individuals making donations late-morning Friday at the Chippewa Valley Blood Donation Center, 3485 E. Hamilton Ave.
Solberg said he wasn’t deterred by the day’s sub-zero temperatures and that he’s a regular donor “just to help.” He said he remembers well the first day he donated blood, Aug. 1, 2007, which coincidentally was the day of the catastrophic Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis that killed 13 persons and injured more than 100.
“You never know when you’re going to need blood,” Solberg said.
And, in the United States, someone needs blood every two seconds, according to Thesenga.
Photographer Steve Kinderman and reporter Christena T. O’Brien contributed to this story.
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