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National Blood Donor Month: How Steward is Stepping Up to Address the United States’ Historic Blood Crisis

Steward hospitals across the country continue to hold blood drives to address the nationwide blood shortage.

A donor gives blood at Trumbull Regional Medical Center in Warren, OH this month.

Someone in the U.S. needs blood or platelets every two seconds, according to American Red Cross — and every day, hospitals around the country use nearly 29,000 units of red blood cells to care for patients.

Simply put, the demand for blood in the U.S. is extraordinary — and from cold and flu season decreasing turnout at blood drives to inclement weather cancelling them altogether, the winter months create unique challenges. As a result, we often face blood shortages in the winter, a reality that led President Richard Nixon to declare January National Blood Donor Month over 50 years ago.

While the need for blood donations is always particularly acute this time of year, it’s never been more important – or urgent – than now. Pandemic-related cancellations of blood drives and low turnout at those that are held have resulted in unprecedented shortages nationwide. In response, the Red Cross announced the first-ever national blood crisis.

Steward hospitals are working tirelessly to address the shortage, hosting blood drives in locations across the country. Just this month, Glenwood Regional Medical Center in Louisiana hosted a blood drive in partnership with community hospitals that saw more than 70 donors. In Texas, The Medical Center of Southeast Texas collected nearly two dozen units across its Beaumont and Port Arthur campuses this month, helping save close to 70 lives. And in Arizona, a drive at Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital last month collected nearly two dozen units, while Mountain Vista Medical Center’s November event collected enough units to save the lives of more than 18 patients.

Volunteers donating blood at The Medical Center of Southeast Texas (left) & Glenwood Regional Medical Center (right) this month.

The impact of blood donations is both immediate and immense, said Michelle Palmer, MHA, a laboratory manager at Tempe St. Luke’s. Donations can be used to aid trauma patients, patients undergoing surgery, cancer patients, and many more. “The impact is you’re saving a life. You’re a blood hero,” she said.

Following the success of previous blood drives which saw many first-time donors, Tempe St. Luke’s is planning similar events for every quarter this year. Eager volunteers are already signing up, Palmer says. “We have fun during the blood drives: we play music, we make sure the donors are comfortable and safe.”

As winter begins to give way to spring, this lifesaving work will continue — and you can be part of it. If you’re interested and able to give blood, get in touch with your nearest Steward hospital to find out more about their upcoming blood drives or check the American Red Cross website for a drive in your community. Your contribution will help save lives.

A blood drive underway at Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital in December 2021.

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