Weeks of wintry weather are draining blood donations in central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. Virginia Blood Services, the organization that supplies blood to hospitals in our region is opening its donor centers for longer hours to make up for the loss.
The winter weather canceled blood drives at schools and colleges, which count for 20 to 30 percent of collections for Virginia Blood Services. The organization is now scrambling to get more people to roll up their sleeves.
Greg Anderson gives blood at Virginia Blood Services’ Albemarle Square donor center. For him, each pump is personal. Anderson required transfusions after encountering complications during heart surgery at the University of Virginia Medical Center.
“I needed the blood then, so it's giving back to the system actually,” Anderson said.
That system is suffering right now. Virginia Blood Services senior account manager Terry Atwater says, “Old Man Winter has been exceptionally cruel to us.”
The frigid temperatures and seemingly non-stop snow and ice storms have caused a significant drop in donations for Virginia Blood Services. But Atwater says the need never goes away, and the organization is relying on regular donors right now.
Virginia Blood Services is down 615 units. That's a typical day and a half’s worth of donations. Donor centers are adding hours this week to play catch-up.
“Only on occasion have we had to really extend our donor hours, unless we get into a real pinch,” Atwater said.
The situation isn't dire right now, but winter's end is still weeks away.
“What can happen down the road might be something that will really cripple our operations, and that's something we want to avoid. The need for blood never goes away, never takes a snow day,” Atwater said.
Winter weather hasn't stopped Arthur Sharp, who says he donates every two weeks. He encourages others to join him.
“I just want to give back to the community and help people - save lives if I can,” Sharp said.
Extended hours at donor centers in Albemarle County, Waynesboro, and Harrisonburg continue through Wednesday.
The bloodmobile is also out at various locations this week. To book an appointment or for more information on donating, visit the Virginia Blood Services website or call 800-989-4438.