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Weather blamed for lack of blood

BY KEVIN SVEC | FEBRUARY 13, 2014 5:00 AM

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This year’s abnormally harsh winter has taken a toll on blood collections in Iowa and the rest of the Midwest.

The 2013-14 winter has been ranked the ninth coldest Iowa winter in 121 years.

The number of blood collections in Iowa has been significantly lower than in previous years, which has resulted in hospitals across the Midwest being in urgent need of donations.

Officials from the LifeServe Blood Center in Des Moines, a supplier to more than 100 hospitals in Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota, said it has struggled with collections at its locations all across the region.

Typically, LifeServe requires at least 2,500 donations each week in order to maintain a three to five day supply.

“Since mid-January, we have seen a loss of more than 1,000 units of blood, which has brought our blood supply to dangerously low levels of less than a two-day supply,” said Nicole Hanger, LifeServe public-relations and marketing specialist.

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics DeGowin Blood Center has canceled blood drives during the past few weeks, including numerous drives at City High School. The drives at were canceled last week because of a two-hour delay and an early dismissal. The drive on Wednesday was canceled because of subzero degree weather.

“The cold weather makes the loading and unloading of equipment difficult which has played a factor in blood drives being canceled,” said Laura Collins, assistant manager of donor collections and patient services at DeGowin.

The center desperately needs for O-negative or O-positive blood donations.

Extreme cold has decreased the numbers of donations in more than just Iowa.

The Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center, based in Davenport, covers 87 hospitals in such states as Missouri, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Because of the decrease in the number of donations, those states have also felt the effect.

“The rate in which hospitals use blood does not change according to the weather,” said Kirby Winn, the director of public relations at the center. “We need to provide blood units no matter what, and donations this winter have been down.”

The blood center aims for about 700 donations daily, which is roughly 3,700 per week. It is between 1,500 to 2,000 donations short for the month.

The institutions have worked to provide more incentives to get donors to the blood drives. The Mississippi Valley Center has tried to combat the winter’s low donation rate by having special promotions in which the donors enter drawings to win items such as snow blowers and personal coffee makers.

The DeGowin Center, Mississippi Valley Center, and LifeServe Center have all attributed their low donation numbers to people simply no going out to give blood as frequently in the cold weather.

“This is the first winter that I have been here that they have canceled blood drives just because of the temperature,” Winn said. “There have been cancellations in previous winters after a heavy snow storm but never because of extreme cold.”


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