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Blood in short supply as Southern Nevada donations lag

Updated July 12, 2017 - 6:19 pm

When it’s hot out, residents stay in.

And that means Southern Nevadans are canceling their blood donation appointments.

Rising temperatures and a dearth of student donors over high school and college summer breaks might be to blame for a blood shortage in Southern Nevada, said Jeannine McCoy, regional donor recruitment manager for United Blood Services.

“The summer months are usually challenging for blood banks in general … because 25 percent of our regular donor base — which are the schools — they’re on vacation,” McCoy said.

Greater holiday travel during the summer months can also lead to increased injury and need for blood, she said.

“We just came off of the Fourth of July weekend,” McCoy said. “Not only are we supplying the locals here that live here, but we have thousands of people that come into Las Vegas on holiday, so we have to support them.”

United Blood Services, which operates three valley donation centers, generally stocks a three-day supply of each blood type. Currently, it has one day’s worth of O-negative and O-positive, and are low on A-negative.

While United Blood Services, which covers 18 states including Nevada, is facing a 5,700 donation shortfall for July alone, the American Red Cross took 2,200 fewer donations in May and June in its Lewis and Clark Region covering Nevada, Montana, Idaho and Utah, spokeswoman Natividad Lewis confirmed. The Red Cross does not run fixed blood centers in Southern Nevada.

The Red Cross issued an emergency alert last week calling on people to donate, when the organization’s five-day supply shrank to a four-day supply. Nationally, about 14,000 donations are required daily to maintain the Red Cross’ supply.

“We always need new donors, and so when it’s a situation like we’re in right now … if you’ve never donated before, now is the time to explore that and consider it a good deed,” Lewis said.

The Valley Health System and University Medical Center, which receive their blood donations from the Red Cross and United Blood Services, respectively, were fully stocked as of Wednesday. A shortage can force patients to postpone elective surgeries until supplies are replenished.

United Blood Services will solicit blood donations at 31 drives throughout Las Vegas until July 31. There will be 13 Red Cross blood drives in Las Vegas through the end of the month.

Donating takes about an hour, McCoy said.

Donors must be at least 16 and weigh 110 pounds to give blood. Additional donation restrictions, such as medications and contact with needles, are on United Blood Services’ website.

Contact Jessie Bekker at jbekker@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4563. Follow @jessiebekks on Twitter.

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