GREAT FALLS — Normally during this time of the year, the American Red Cross typically has a five-day supply of some blood types, but right now they’re in an emergency and only have about a half day’s supply of some blood types.
The Red Cross is seeing its lowest post-summer level of blood supply in the last six years. Turnout has also dropped about 10%, leaving the Red Cross in an emergency as they constantly need blood, but don’t have the donors they need to give it. They have enough blood for state hospitals but their need for blood is still strong.
Red Cross Montana Executive Director Diane Wright says there are hospitals across the nation that are in dire need of blood, and they are not getting the supply they are used to having.
“We need to collect about 10,000 units of blood to store up and stock our shelves. Typically, in the fall we see a rebound in our blood supply from summer shortages but we’re experiencing an emergency shortage and we think it’s due to the increase in COVID cases and the Delta variant,” Wright said.
In Great Falls, Wes Ross is seeing the same situation. He organizes blood drives for his son Troy, who has an autoimmune disorder, as well as other children facing critical illnesses and is seeing good turnout but wants to spread as much awareness as possible.
He says he is fortunate to have had people turn up and support the Troy Strong movement but wants the focus to be on going out to any blood drive and making sure people that need blood get it.
“I think people just need to make it a priority to do it. And you know the next time I’m up, I’m going to have to take some time away from work early to go over and do it. Once you do it, I think a lot of people realize it’s not as scary as they made it out to be and I was just the same person when I first did it. But I haven’t missed it in four years. Every 56 days I’m eligible, I jump right in there to help the next person,” Ross said.
Since the Ross family started organizing blood drives, they have had lots of help along the way, including help from Lee Ruud, a family friend that has donated blood ever since she was in high school, and thinks there could be several reasons behind the shortage, including COVID, a fear of going, and overall stress.
“I’m a friend of the Ross family and I was there the night that Troy got life-flighted out. I think everybody’s stressed out and when you’re stressed out, you don’t think to give back so hopefully, someone will give back now and just realize that this is a hard time and take that extra little step to go out and I know that the Red Cross is super careful about all of those things,” Ruud said.
The next Troy Strong drive has yet to be scheduled but there are also several other blood drives scheduled around central Montana in the coming weeks, and they will all be looking for blood of all kinds to continue saving lives. To schedule a donation, you can visit the Red Cross website.
Appointments can be made by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting the Red Cross website, or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). The easiest way to find a blood drive near you is to go to redcrossblood.org and enter your zip code.
To donate blood, individuals need to bring a blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification that are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also must meet certain height and weight requirements.
Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional safety precautions – including face masks for donors and staff, regardless of vaccination status – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive.