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UC Irvine Medical Center Looking for More Blood Donors

A nationwide shortage of blood has prompted the UCI Blood Donation Center to hold an emergency blood drive on Tuesday, Jan. 16.

Blood donations have been running low nationwide due to winter storms along the East Coast, with 1,500 Red Cross donations going uncollected, according to a report by Newsweek.

The Red Cross collects blood which it then sells to hospitals around the country. With the shortage on the East Coast, and less blood coming from the West Coast, the Red Cross is not able to sell nearly as much blood as they usually do at this time.

UCI Med collects 65 to 75 percent of their blood from donations; the rest is purchased from the Red Cross.

“We try to become more self-sufficient when there is a shortage, so the blood we collect can be sent to the Red Cross for those who need it,” said Theresa Barrett-Bewley, who is in charge of UCI Med’s Blood Donor Recruitment. By collecting more blood, there is a smaller chance of not being able to meet increased demands, in case the Red Cross can’t provide the blood needed by medical centers.

Blood shortages are not uncommon in the winter months immediately following the holidays. “The key is to get people to donate regularly, not just during tragedies and holidays,” Barrett-Bewley said.

As demand for blood increases with more major surgeries and a population growth of people over 65, frequent and regular blood donations become critical.

So far this quarter, the Blood Donation Center has received 135 donations, 90 percent of which came from patients who had never donated before. “Hopefully of those 90 percent, 50 percent will donate again,” said Barrett-Bewley. “We always have a need for more.”  

Donors must be 17 years of age or 18 if they are donating platelets, and must weigh at least 110 pounds. The Blood Donation Center asks that donors check their website before donating blood, to ensure they meet all the requirements.