ROCKFORD - With a local and nationwide blood shortage across the country, those with Rock River Valley Blood Center (RRVBC) are pleading with the public to consider making a donation.
"We are at a critical level. Blood donations are being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in. Blood donors are needed to help avoid delays in lifesaving medical care," said Rock River Valley Blood Center Director of Operations Lisa Entrikin. "It's the lowest I've seen it in years."
Locally, Entrikin said there has been a high level of traumas at area hospitals over the past three weeks. RRVBC serves Rockford area hospitals as well as Edgerton Hospital and Beloit Memorial Hospital.
The increased trauma has occurred during the summer when RRVBC can't rely on its captive audience of high schools which often provide many donors. Also many regular blood donors typically go on vacations in the summer months, which causes a slowdown in blood donations.
"It becomes a juggling game. We are low enough we know what the hospitals have on the shelves. It could get to the point where we might have to take from one hospital to give to another," Entrikin said.
There are two upcoming blood drives in Beloit. The first one will be held from noon - 6 p.m. Aug. 21 at the Beloit Rotary River Center, 1160 Riverside Drive. The second one is scheduled for 1:30 - 6 p.m. Aug. 27 at Central Christian Church, 2460 Milwaukee Road.
Although someone in the United States needs blood every two seconds, blood donations nationwide are down. RRVBC is part of a national organization called America's Blood Centers and is trying to figure out how to combat the constant shortage and to get new people to give. Entrikin said the average donor only donates once a year, but a person can donate six times a year.
"If the people who are currently donating gave one additional time, there would not be a shortage," she added.
Those with RRVBC have been updating social media, calling, emailing and sending text messages to donors. They also are trying to encourage first-time donors.
Entrikin said she sympathizes with people with a fear of needles, but said staff draw blood 20 to 30 times a day and often offer a different experience than what some have had in the doctor's office. The needle remains in the arm 10 minutes or less. The total time taken for donation is an hour or less.
"It's fast, and it's such a simple thing to do that truly makes an impact on the public," Entrikin said.
An identification card or donor ID is required to donate. Potential donors must be in good health, weigh at least 110 pounds and be at least 17 years old. Those who are 16-years-old may donate with parental consent.
Persons taking medications, or with well-controlled or resolved medical issues are not necessarily disqualified from donation.