TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Once donors wrap up their visit to the American Red Cross blood donation center on Broadway and Kolb, the pints of blood collected cannot afford to sit on the shelves for too long.
"Blood has a shelf life. It's only good over red blood cells are we good for 42 days," Samantha Bivens said.
Bivens, a Red Cross account manager and blood drive organizer, said consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic depleted Red Cross bank supplies both in Tucson and across the country.
"We are behind by almost 10,000 pints a day right now nationwide," Bivens said. "For Tucson alone, we need to collect about 160 pints just to break even with the need and were seeing that need rise."
Bivens said these months of uncertainty have prevented groups that normally request mobile blood drives to meet that demand.
She also said 20 percent of the bank's blood supply comes from high school drives, but many have not gone back yet to a normal routine from before 2020.
That, Bivens said, impairs the Red Cross' ability to get critical blood donations to local hospitals.
"When you donate blood, most of the blood we collect actually states your local sheet before being sent elsewhere," Bivens said.
It's that kind of immediate local impact that Linda Gonzalez believes helped save her life in 2018.
"I was on the back of a motorcycle and some people, we don't know who it was, tied a strap across the road and the strap caught my eye and tore my jaw off completely," Gonzalez said.
11 pints of donated blood helped Gonzalez recover so she can now volunteer for groups like the Red Cross. She said she's keenly aware that during the holiday season, blood banks already run low on donations.
It's also a time when more drivers hit the road, raising the risk for serious accidents.
"People are out on the roads and there's accidents and there's, you know, accidents in so many different ways," Gonzalez said. "What if there's no blood to save your family member? People don't really realize that until it happens to them. They're afraid that if something does happen there's not going to be blood just saved them."
Before we arrive at the busiest portion of the holiday season, Bivens said, people have an opportunity to give a precious gift in a healthy, safe way.
"The number one reason why people don't donate is because they've never been so or they don't think about it. So if you can just take half an hour to 40 minutes out of your day and come down and donate some blood," she said, "It goes a long way."
The Red Cross in Tucson said it is taking the necessary steps to make donating blood as safe as possible.
As part of the upcoming Turn Black Friday Red Blood Drive, partnered with KGUN 9, the Red Cross asks that anyone who'd like to donate make an appointment before coming to the mobile clinic.
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