by Ally Heath LIVERPOOL, N.Y. – This halloween, creepy crawlers aren’t the only ones looking for your blood- so is the American Red Cross.
The Red Cross is currently at a critical blood supply level, according to Red Cross Syracuse Account Manager Katie Stepanian. She says that’s less than a two-month supply.
“The need for blood is constant,” said Stepanian. “We have had some major hurricanes recently, Hurricane Michael, Hurricane Florence, that caused the cancellation of about two-hundred blood drives, which translated to about seven-thousand units of blood that could not be collected.”
When you donate, you give one unit of blood, and Stepanian says cancer patients and those going through surgeries can require over 100 units of transfusions to stay alive each year.
The cancelled drives, in addition to more blood being diverted to the areas impacted by disasters like the hurricanes, are placing a strain on blood centers across the country. Although the Red Cross can ship blood across the country to address areas of need, it’s an expensive process that still requires frequent donations.
“We need to be collecting every day because blood does expire,” Stepanian said, after about 42 days on the shelf. “We need to replenish that supply because it is the blood on the shelves that saves the lives of those who need it.”
Wendy Castaldo is one of the constant donors Stepanian is referencing. The North Syracuse resident is a former EMT, and after she left the ambulance, she was looking for a way to keep giving back.
“I’ve seen a lot of bad things, and I’ve seen a lot of good things,” Castaldo said, referencing some of the victims she saved while working in the ambulance. “I know that by giving blood, it’s another way of helping save people’s lives.”
The Liverpool Blood Donation Center is near her house so she says whenever she has time, she comes down to donate. Castaldo estimated that she has given around ten or eleven gallons of blood so far. Each donation is one pint, so that’s between 80 and 90 donations.
But you don’t have to become a serial donator like Castaldo to make an impact. Stepanian says there is still no way to manufacture blood, so hospitals rely on human donations to to keep the supplies strong.
There are nine more blood drives on the Syracuse University campus before the end of the semester, including a Halloween drive today. Stepanian said students usually make up more than 20 percent of the area’s donations in a year, but registration for the drives has been down.
“It’s a little thing you can do,” Castaldo said. “It only takes an hour of your time, plus you get snacks!”
For more information about the blood drives or to register, visit www.redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS.