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Blood Banks Facing Shortages, Seeking Donations

United Blood Services
This little girl was born with a rare blood disorder and receives regular blood transfusions.

Blood is in short supply in Arizona and nationwide, and on Wednesday, the American Red Cross issued a statement calling for blood and platelet donations. Other blood centers are also concerned about shortages.

United Blood Services provides 100 percent of all of the blood transfusion needs in Maricopa County, and Sue Thew, who is with the non-profit, says that during the winter holiday, donations are slow. On top of that, she says, in January, more transfusions are required than in any other month.  

"None of us want to spend the holiday season in the hospital, and there are a lot of non-life-threatening surgeries that require blood so what ends up happening, they wait," Thew said. "So what ends up happening is they wait through the holiday season, and those surgery schedules escalate."    

Thew says United Blood Services is specifically concerned about the amount of O-negative blood. As of Wednesday morning, she says there was less than a half-day supply of the universal blood type.

"On top of that, often times the cold and flu season prevents many people from being eligible to donate blood. It’s literally the perfect storm of reasons why people aren’t donating blood this time of year," she said.

Thew says between Dec. 24 and Jan. 2, hospital orders statewide for blood outpaced donations by 60 percent. 

Thew says United Blood Services is urging people who are healthy and eligible to donate blood in the coming days. To make an appointment, call 1-877-UBS-HERO (827-4376) or visit www.BloodHero.com.

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Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.