BYU donors helping solve critical blood shortage

Ari Davis
Hannah Bell, who is starting graduate school in neuroscience, donates blood. (Ari Davis)

The nation’s blood reserves have reached critical levels this summer. With 39,000 fewer units of blood than what is needed, the Red Cross is urging those who are eligible to donate blood to help replenish the supply.

The Red Cross has less than a five-day supply of blood in the case of an emergency right now, according to Red Cross External Communications Manager Tammy Nakamura. “We’re feeling the pressure a little bit. The Red Cross likes to have that cushion of a five-day blood supply.”

While the Red Cross normally experiences a decrease in donations during the summer months, this summer’s decrease has been more severe than in previous years, Nakamura said. The blood supply at this time in 2015 was nearly twice as large as it is now.

Of particular need is a greater supply of blood type O negative, as it is the only blood type can be safely used in transfusions where the recipient’s blood type is unknown.

Several BYU students who have recognized the need for an increase in the nation’s blood reserves have responded by rolling up a sleeve and donating to The Red Cross.

BYU has hosted 20 blood drives through Y-Serve since the beginning of 2016, drawing in hundreds of participants.

Christine Lavallee, a senior in elementary education from Los Angeles County, is a regular blood donor at the Red Cross. She has been donating blood roughly once every two months for the past four years.

“I do love that feeling of my blood making a difference,” Lavallee said. “Every time I hear about a news story where there was a mass shooting … you know those people need blood.”

Lavallee said that her first blood donation to the Red Cross was through a blood drive that her BYU young single adult ward hosted. As the blood shortage crisis becomes more serious, more student wards are signing up to contribute. The entire Provo Married Student 1st Stake, which consists of 11 wards, hosted a blood drive on July 14.

“We try to host these blood drives once every four months,” said Provo Married Student 3rd Ward Bishop James Reese.

Donating blood is an example of a completely selfless act, Nakamura said. Since the Red Cross does not offer monetary compensation for blood donations, as do certain plasma donation centers across Provo, Nakamura hopes the idea of service to others will be enough motivation to bring in the needed donors.

“Every two seconds in the United States someone needs blood or platelets,” Nakamura said. “You get to donate a life-saving product that the human body regenerates. Your pint of blood has the potential to save up to three lives.”

According to a statement issued on July 5, the Red Cross is expanding the operation hours of donation clinics by 350 hours in order to accommodate the schedules of more donors. The organization can also inform donors of where blood will be sent to help those in need.

Visit the BYU Blood Drives Facebook page to stay updated on blood drives through Y-Serve.

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