Region’s blood supply runs dangerously low

By Gus Bode

Blood drives scheduled next week in Carbondale

Info Box:The American Red Cross has scheduled blood drives at these locations:The SIUC Student Recreation Center from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

Great Shapes Fitness for Women from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 29.


Grinnell Hall, Lentz Hall and Trueblood Hall from 12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sep. 2.

Memorial Hospital of Carbondale from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sep. 3.

If anyone in Southern Illinois is involved in a serious accident this weekend, that person has a slim chance of receiving enough blood to survive, American Red Cross officials said Thursday.

“If someone gets in an accident right now, we don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Laurie Nehring, the Red Cross’ donor recruitment account manager for the Illinois-Missouri region. “It could be very unfortunate that they don’t have blood.”

As of early Thursday evening, Red Cross officials said a mere five hours worth of blood existed in the inventory for the region, which covers more than 120 counties in Southern Illinois and eastern Missouri. Officials said five hours of blood may not even be enough for one severe car accident victim or a person in need of trauma surgery.

Nehring said the end of the summer usually marks a shortage in the region’s blood supply, but the deficit has not been this serious in a long time.

“This is not a typical year by any means,” Nehring said. “We usually get down to a two-or-three-day supply in the summer, but it doesn’t get to a five-hour supply. This is a very big deal.”


The blood shortage has already been felt in Carbondale. Memorial Hospital of Carbondale has already considered restricting optional surgery candidates. Hospital Administrator George Maroney said the need for blood is so high in Carbondale, that the hospital may have no choice but to refuse to perform optional surgery.

Maroney said the hospital will do as much as it can to treat patients during the area’s blood shortage.

However, he said he wants to remind people that blood is not something that can be substituted.

“There are certain things surgeons can do as far as doing things with fluids, but you get to a point where you have to have blood,” Maroney said.

The Red Cross has increased efforts to fight the blood shortage by scheduling seven donation drives in Carbondale between Aug. 25 and Sep. 3. The SIUC Student Recreation Center, Great Shapes for Fitness and Women, various SIUC dining halls and Memorial Hospital of Carbondale will host drives at different times.

Nehring said blood donations from SIUC students is very crucial because students have supplied more than half of the region’s blood supply in the past.

“In the Missouri-Illinois blood region, they are counting on those SIU drives next week,” Nehring said. “We have been running low all summer because SIU’s been closed. We’re just banking that the kids are going to donate.”

Red Cross officials said donors can give blood every 56 days, or six times a year. Anyone who wants to donate should weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health.

Officials said the recommended age to give blood is 17 years old. However, 16-year-old Illinois residents are allowed to donate with a signed Red Cross parental consent form.

The Red Cross also restricts people who have received a tattoo in the past year and people who have traveled to countries with diseases such as malaria and mad cow disease to donate blood.

Maroney said if people are in good health and are able to donate blood, they should continue to do so as much as they are allowed. He said the donation boom that happened across the United States as a result of the 9/11 attacks was a strong effort, but that the local need for blood is just as important.

“When 9/11 happened, the public just came out of the woodwork to give blood,” Maroney said. “They have to understand that 9/11 happens every day. We need more every day than we did after 9/11 with just the regular things that happen in our communities.”

Maroney said although such donation explosions are a nice thought, steady donations are more effective. Much of the blood donated after 9/11 was wasted as its life cycle expired. According to the Red Cross, red blood cells have a life cycle of 42 days.

“It doesn’t do any good to go out and have one huge rush where everybody goes out and gives blood,” Maroney said. “There has to be a steady stream coming in all year.”

Reporter Burke Wasson can be reached at [email protected].