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Blood donations still needed in summertime

A blood drive sign seen outside of Versiti-held drives is shown on June 29.
Heather Dixon
A blood drive sign seen outside of Versiti-held drives is shown on June 29.

Almost six months after a national blood shortage was declared, officials say there’s still a need for donations.

“Our donors are aging out,” Versiti Account Representative Heather Dixon said. “The generation that donated because they saw their parents go to war is aging out and they're the ones that are actually needing the blood now.”

Nationwide, units of blood are growing scarce to grab since the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Versiti — a center for blood health research and donations in the Midwest — especially sees a decrease in units during the summer, Dixon said.

“Because of the summer weather people are busier, they're out on their boats, they're camping, they're on vacation,” Dixon said. “We need new donors to come in the door and supply us with the blood products that we need, instead of counting on the donors that have been doing it for so long.”

In January, the American Red Cross declared a national blood crisis — its worst in a decade, according to a press release — amid rising cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19.

On Wednesday, Presque Isle Harbor Association hosted a blood drive with Versiti at its clubhouse. Vickie Fields, chairperson of the clubhouse, beach and pool for Presque Isle Harbor Association, set up the drive with Versiti and started hosting the events in March.

Fields said the March event saw 26 donors and Wednesday’s blood drive saw 23 people signed up with a few walk-ins.

“I think the importance of blood and people being in hospitals and COVID was scary, because there weren't a lot of people able to get the blood they needed,” Fields said. “If I can help facilitate that I'm going to and I am very passionate about things that I volunteer for.”

Versiti was the supplier of blood for the Oxford, Michigan, shooting survivors that occurred last November. When these survivors needed surgery or blood transfusions, the Michigan center did not have enough, so they had to quickly move blood across states in time for operations.

“In Michigan, we have 3,900 blood drives hosted annually, and we need 620 products a day,” Dixon said. “Right now, we are not hitting that 620 product mark every day… For example, one of my blood drives, we had goaled it at 20 units, and we only had 13 donors present.”

Dixon suggested donors should eat breakfast, especially on the day they’re getting their blood donated. Many high school age donors, Dixon said, have a lack of iron in their system.

If people can’t donate for different reasons, Dixon suggested they look for a replacement donor.

“I asked them to replace that with somebody that can,” Dixon said. “Ask a family member that can come in your place. That way, we're getting those donors still in the door.”

Michael Gonzalez is a fourth year at Central Michigan that majors in journalism. He is from Pinckney, Michigan, will be an intern for WCMU and the Alpena News this summer.