Red Cross needs blood going into new year

Busy holiday schedules and the potential for severe winter storms lead to vastly reduced donations of blood and platelets between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. The American Red Cross is urging eligible donors to help replenish its stock of perishable, life-giving donations.

Last year, nearly 64,000 fewer blood and platelet donations were given to the Red Cross during the holidays than the annual average. “By taking just about an hour of time today, you can help save someone’s life within a few weeks or even days of your donation,” said Laura McGuire, external communications manager of the Red Cross Badger-Hawkeye Blood Services Region. “We’re asking donors to give now to help ensure blood is available when patients need it most.”

Red blood cells, the most transfused blood product, must be transfused within 42 days. Platelets, the tiny cells that form clots and help stop bleeding, must be transfused within just five days. More than half of all platelet donations go to cancer patients who may need transfusions to prevent life-threatening bleeding during chemotherapy.

“Platelet donors don’t have to wait a few weeks to make a difference in a patient’s life,” said McGuire. “Someone could donate platelets on Monday, and by Friday, those same platelets can help someone’s fight to kick cancer.”

Kelly Ellison certainly knows that. Twenty-eight weeks into her third pregnancy, she was raced to the hospital with uncontrollable bleeding and received a doubly devastating diagnosis. Not only did she have aplastic anemia – a rare blood disorder in which the body’s bone marrow does not produce enough new blood cells – doctors also detected kidney cancer. Ellison received 43 units of blood and platelets. Five weeks later, she gave birth prematurely to her son, who also needed blood transfusions to survive.

“Our lives have been forever changed because of lifesaving blood and platelet donations,” said Ellison. “Every breath I take is a blessing.”

All blood types are needed this winter, and platelet donations are in especially high demand during the first week of the new year. As a special thank you, donors who come in between Thursday and Jan. 7 will receive a long-sleeved Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last. To schedule a donation appointment, visit or call 800-RED CROSS (800- 733-2767).