Every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood.
Since January, severe winter storms forced the cancellation of 850 blood drives, causing blood supplies to fall to critical levels across the nation.
"It means 32,000 blood donations that went uncollected," said Marianne Spampinato, communications manager for the Greater Alleghenies Region, which covers 100 counties in six states, including Franklin County in Pennsylvania and Washington County in Maryland.
More than 38,000 blood donations are needed every day, according to the American Red Cross website.
In response to this urgent need, the American Red Cross has launched "Recovery 2011" to encourage blood-drive sponsors to collect 10 percent more blood than their established goal.
"Supplies are improving — the reserves are better than what they were a month ago — but we're still seeking additional donor turnout to increase the amount that's available," Spampinato said.
"There is no substitute for blood. That's why donating blood can only come from individuals who care about keeping the community healthy and safe," said Mary Rizk, corporate communications director for Meritus Health, which includes Meritus Medical Center near Hagerstown.
Blood is used for anything from traumas, to routine surgeries, to transfusions, to treating cancer patients in a hospital, Rizk said.
Meritus Medical Center uses about 200 units of blood and blood products a month in addition to having 100 units of blood on the shelf at all times, she said.
There are four types of transfusible products that can be derived from blood: red cells, platelets, plasma and cryoprecipitate. Typically, two or three of these are produced from a pint of donated whole blood.
Each donation can help save up to three lives, according to the Red Cross website.
As a blood donor, Franklin County Commissioner Bob Thomas never gave much thought to where his blood was going or how it was helping — until he ended up on the receiving end of a transfusion.
About a year ago, Thomas required 30 units of blood at Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pa., over a three-month period, to stabilize his aplastic anemia, a rare blood disorder.
"My experience at Hershey opened my eyes to the power and the need of blood. The blood that's used at these various hospitals from Hershey, to Chambersburg, to Waynesboro, to Hagerstown comes from these Red Cross blood drives. The importance of that blood just cannot be stressed enough."
It takes 10-12 minutes to donate a unit (pint) of blood, and Thomas hopes more people will donate.
"There's a gospel song called, 'There Is Power In The Blood.' Of course, that song is about the cleansing power of Jesus' blood on the cross," Thomas said. "But, there's power in blood donation, to save a life."
At his last visit to the doctor over a month ago, Thomas said he was told he was doing very well. He still has monthly blood tests, but is feeling optimistic enough to say: "I hope that someday I'll be giving blood again."
'It might be you'
Jack Duffey, a Waynesboro Community Blood Services volunteer, couldn't wait to give blood at the blood drive at Joe Stickell American Legion Post 15 on Main Sreet in Waynesboro, Pa. on March 3.
The Red Cross office in Johnstown, Pa., set the quota for the Waynesboro drive at 135 units or pints of blood.
"I'm working on 24 gallons. I gave my first pint in the service (1952)," Duffey said. "It's one of the best things you can do for humanity. Personally, my parents, my wife, my two daughters and my sister — before she passed — were all recipients of blood. So, you look at things in a different light."
Sixty-eight year old Richard Seaks of Waynesboro sat in the refreshment area refueling after giving blood.
"It became for me, over a period of time, a way of celebrating my gift of health," Seaks said. "If you are healthy, I think you should consider giving."
Carol Leib of Waynesboro chatted about the merits of giving blood while giving her pint of blood at the Waynesboro drive.
"I think it makes you feel good that you're doing this for other people. There's such a need for it," the 70-year-old woman said.
Helen Beck of Waynesboro started giving blood in her early 20s to replace blood for a relative battling leukemia. But, now that she's retired, Beck gives blood on a regular basis.
"There are so many people that need blood, and you never know when it might be you or someone in your family. If I can help, it's a small way to help if I can do it," said the 60-year-old.
Blood donor sites
If you would like to donate blood in the Tri-State area, here is where to go:
Franklin County, Pa.
- Tuesday, March 15, 12-6 p.m., Chambersburg Recreation Center, 235 S. Third St., Chambersburg, Pa.
- Thursday, March 17, 12-6 p.m., Greenvillage Church of God, 5164 Philadelphia Ave., Chambersburg, Pa.
Washington County, Md.
- Monday, March 7, 12-6 p.m., American Red Cross Hagerstown, 1131 Conrad Court, Hagerstown, Md.
- Tuesday, March 8, 2-7 p.m., St. Maria Goretti High School, 1535 Oak Hill Ave., Hagerstown, Md.
Berkeley County, WVa.
- Wednesday, March 9, 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., 510 Butler Ave., Martinsburg, W.Va.
- Saturday, March 12, 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 93 Langston Blvd., Martinsburg, W.Va.