Officials with the American Red Cross are hopeful that warmer, sunny weather will lead to more blood donors across the metro Atlanta region, as well as around the nation.
Communities across the country have been hit another round of severe winter storms, which left a gaping hole in blood supplies, according to April Phillips, spokeswoman for the Southern Blood Services Region.
She said the emergency response organization has been forced to cancel more than 750 blood drives nationwide, resulting in a shortfall of more than 30,000 blood donations since Jan. 1.
"It's our first nationwide blood appeal since 2004, and [the] January blood supply is the lowest it's been in over a decade," said Phillips.
The Red Cross partnered with Blue Bell Ice Cream to host the Pint for a Pint Blood Drive, held Monday and Tuesday, at all seven of its metro Atlanta blood donation centers, she said. Those participating as blood or platelet donors received a coupon for a free pint of Blue Bell Ice Cream, officials said.
Phillips acknowledged that Valentine's Day activities may have lessened blood collection attempts Monday.
"I think a lot of people were focused on sharing with their loved ones yesterday, and today we hope that they decide to share with someone else the gift of life," she said. "Our hope is that we continue to work with Blue Bell throughout the year, and into next year, for more Pint for a Pint opportunities."
Phillips said she is hopeful that, with the warmer weather, blood donors will turn out to any of the 14 Red Cross blood donation centers in the state. The seven centers that operate in metro Atlanta include the South Metro Blood Donation Center, located at 675 Southcrest Pkwy., in Stockbridge.
The South Metro Blood Donation Center, she added, is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, between noon, and 7 p.m., and from 8 a.m., until 3 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays.
"We often think that weather in other parts of the nation don't impact us here locally, but Georgia is actually an import region — which means we must rely on blood from other states to meet the needs of patients in local hospitals," explained Phillips. "So, a shortfall [of more than 30,000 units] can severely impact our ability to provide for these hospitals."
The Red Cross needs to collect over 1,200 units of blood each weekday to sufficiently supply more than 120 hospitals throughout the state of Georgia, according to the Red Cross spokeswoman.
"We need whole blood and platelet donations," said Phillips. "There is a great need for all blood types, but in particular Type O and Type B."
Anyone interested in giving blood may make an appointment to do so calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), or visiting www.redcrossblood.org.
Phillips said blood can be donated every 56 days, and platelet donations can be made every two weeks, up to 26 times a year. Eligible blood donors must be at least 17 years of age (16 with parental permission), meet weight and height requirements (110 pounds or more, depending on height) and be in good health. She advises donors drink plenty of water, and eat a well balanced meal before donating.
"At any given moment, patients rely on life-saving blood products. The need is constant -- even in emergency situations," said Randy Edwards, CEO, for the Southern Region of the Red Cross. "The quickest help will come from our local blood donors who are able to travel safely to a nearblood drive or donor center. We are encouraging people in our area to donate blood and platelets in the coming days and weeks."