Holidays, aftermath of deadly storms put stress on Red Cross blood supply

Grand Strand

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — The American Red Cross says it is grappling with the worst blood shortage it has seen in over a decade.

The need is even greater during the holiday season when donations are usually low, and on Tuesday, officials said taking a small step inside a local donation center is an even bigger step toward saving lives.

“We have to have blood on the shelves 24/7 to meet that need,” said Michael Hesbach, executive director of the Eastern South Carolina chapter of the American Red Cross.

Blood donations this week will help several patients, including a woman with heart failure and a cancer patient who needed emergency surgery, he said.

The need for blood and platelet donations has grown even more since tornadoes ripped through several states, Hesbach said. Those storms killed at least 74 people in Kentucky alone, and dozens more were injured.

“Now, people are trying to figure out… fixing their roofs and fixing their house and where they’re going to live,” he said. “In Kentucky and Tennessee, they don’t have the time to go donate blood, so we’ve gotta go out and raise the blood — or collect that blood.”

Two hundred units of blood have been donated so far, but local needs have to be met first before those extra donations cross state lines.

Hesbach said it takes 12,000 units a day just to meet the need locally. The constant need is what keeps folks like Barb Poloni coming back.

“Just knowing that you’re helping somebody have another day — whether it’s another birthday or another month — it means so much for their family that you took the time to come and sit in the chair,” Poloni said.

One donation can help three people, and the process to donate blood only costs 30 minutes of your time. Hesbach said.

The Red Cross is planning 30 blood drives across the Grand Strand during the next two weeks. Potential donors are encouraged to make an appointment online.

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