The American Red Cross is experiencing the worst blood shortage in more than a decade, with the blood supply having reached a dangerously low level.

Through its national inventory, the Red Cross can distribute blood whenever, wherever it is needed. But because blood can take up to three days to be tested, processed and made available for patients, it’s the blood already on the shelves that helps save lives in an emergency.

All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply.

Type O positive blood is the most transfused blood type.

Type O negative is the universal blood type and can be transfused to anyone who needs blood. It’s the blood type doctors turn to first in an emergency situation when there is no time to match a patient’s blood type.

Platelets must be transfused within just five days after a donation is made. That’s why there’s a constant — and often critical — need for new and current donors to give to keep up with hospital demand.

Providing 40% of the nation’s blood supply, the American Red Cross must collect enough blood every day to meet the needs of accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease.

The need for blood is constant.

Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood, according to the Red Cross website.

Why donate?

The Blood Bank of Delmarva, an independent blood service that provides blood for 19 hospitals on Delmarva, reports that nine out of 10 individuals will need blood or a blood product at some time in their lives.

That means the life you save with your donation could be that of a family member, a close friend, a neighbor or the teenager at Dunkin’ Donuts who knows just how you like your coffee in the morning.

Does it hurt to donate blood?

There may be a little pinch when the needle is inserted, but there should be no pain during the donation.

How much blood is needed in our area?

Nearly 79,000 blood donations are needed each year for patients across the Delmarva Peninsula.

A number of factors continue to complicate the situation: routine donors are experiencing fatigue and not enough new donors are stepping up; many organizations have not yet returned to in person, making office blood drives impossible; thousands of community groups have not resumed blood drives; and with the potential for future cancellation of surgeries due to the new Omicron variant, the need for blood is very high.

The holiday season makes it increasingly difficult to get donors in the door as families gather, travel increases and fears of the COVID-19 infection continue though there is NO evidence that coronaviruses are transmitted by blood transfusion.

Currently, the Delmarva region’s blood supply stands at only a one- or two-day level as local hospital usage has increased above pre-pandemic levels and there is no surplus of blood nationwide. We need at least a seven-day supply to ensure blood is available for patients in need, a Blood Bank official said.

You can make a real difference.

As incentives, the Blood Bank of Delmarva is offering “festive socks” and the Red Cross is offering a long-sleeved T-shirt with an “exclusive design” to anyone who donates blood — while supplies last.

Donors must be at least 17 (or 16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and be in generally good health.

There are four permanent blood donation centers on Delmarva: Salisbury; Newark and Dover, Delaware; and Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Also, more than 30 locations on the Delmarva Peninsula are visited by bloodmobiles. The schedule changes monthly and can be accessed through the website, donate.bbd.org.

Options also include downloading the American Red Cross blood donor app; visiting RedCrossBlood.org; calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767); or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device to make an appointment or for more information.

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