The Hippo


Oct 14, 2019








How to donate to the Red Cross

Go to or call 1-800 RED-CROSS (733-2767) or visit the American Red Cross Blood Donation Center at 425 Reservoir Drive, Manchester.

In search of blood
Red Cross month highlights need for donations

By Ryan Lessard

 In 2010, when Pierce was born, he needed an immediate transfusion of blood. His mother, Tricia Eastman of Merrimack, said that was even before the doctors diagnosed him with leukemia six months later. 

“He is a harder blood type to match so we were very fortunate that [the hospital] had what he needed,” Eastman said.
Pierce’s blood type is O-negative, which is a universal donor type but can only receive the same blood type. 
Pierce had to go through two years of treatment with regular transfusions, since leukemia, a type of blood cancer, seriously reduces a patient’s red blood cell and platelet count. He’s now in remission.
As far as Eastman is concerned, regular blood donors save her son’s life.
“If it weren’t for people donating blood, he wouldn’t have been able to survive,” Eastman said.
Today, Pierce is in first grade. He enjoys writing and drawing.
“March is Red Cross month and it’s a time to recognize the heroes who support the Red Cross mission and help those in need in their communities,” said Mary Brant, communications manager at the Red Cross of Northern New England. 
Brant said it’s a constant struggle to maintain enough of a blood supply, in part because of the limited shelf life. 
Red blood cells can be stored for 42 days and platelets last only five days. Plasma can be frozen and used for up to a year.
Nationally, the Red Cross needs to collect 14,000 red blood and platelet donations daily to keep up demand. That’s about 700 daily donations in the Northern New England region alone. 
A typical red blood donation is a pint of blood, but donors can choose to be what’s dubbed a “Power Red Donor” where they give a concentrated donation of roughly double the red blood cells but plasma and platelets are returned. 
The hardest thing to get are platelets.
“We’re always looking for platelet donors,” Brant said. 
Since only 3 percent of the U.S. population donates blood each year, Brant said the nation’s blood is supplied by an “elite group” of people. Still, since 38 percent qualify for blood donations, plenty more people can help out.
While regular blood donors can return every eight weeks, platelets regenerate faster, enabling donors to give platelets every two weeks. 
Blood can be given at blood drives or at the donation center in Manchester and takes about an hour for the whole process (the actual blood donation takes about 10 minutes). But platelet donations can only be done at the donation center and take two to two-and-a-half hours. 
While O-negative is the universal donor type, AB type blood is the universal recipient for red blood cells and the universal plasma donor. 
“We always encourage people of all blood types to donate,” Brant said.
The process generally involves a quick physical check-up that includes taking your temperature, blood pressure and iron levels. Typical disqualifiers include not feeling well, frequent travel outside the country, certain medications and getting a recent tattoo.
Recent shortages
Inclement weather and natural disasters can have ripple effects on the blood supply gathered by the Red Cross. And in a small state like New Hampshire, travel isn’t always easy.
“Here in New Hampshire, there is only one donor center and that’s not always going to be convenient for people going to donate blood,” Brant said. 
That’s why there are blood drives scheduled virtually every day across the state. But when the roads are undriveable, that throws a wrench into their plans. 
“We had two winter storms that caused the cancellation of quite a few blood drives,” Brant said.
By mid-February, snow and icy roads caused a dozen blood drives to cancel, resulting in about 355 donations not being collected. 
That’s on top of regular dips in donation patterns.
“There are two times of the year that the Red Cross always struggles to maintain an adequate blood supply,” Brant said. 
Those times are the winter, starting around the holidays, and the summer, when people are often traveling. 
The storms this winter caused a temporary shortage. In response, Brant said, the Red Cross reached out to regular donors to ask them to give again. And wherever blood was in demand and local donations couldn’t meet that demand, blood was imported from out of state.
“The Red Cross is a national organization and has the infrastructure to move blood where it’s needed, when it’s needed,” Brant said.

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