National Blood Donor Month urges action amidst critical shortage

Published 5:41 pm Friday, January 12, 2024

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

January, the month recognized as National Blood Donor Month, arrived with a pressing call for blood donations across Central Alabama as local blood centers and hospitals face an alarming shortage. Melinda Hinds, spokesperson for Lifesouth Community Blood Centers, stressed the dire need for donors, especially those with O negative and O positive blood types, and encouraged both regular and first-time donors to make a life-saving contribution.

“The status of our supply right now is not where we want it, I will tell you that,” Hinds said. “We are in desperate need of O negative and O positive types right now. Of course, if you’re another blood type…come in too, but if you are O negative or O positive, we definitely need you to put it on your calendar. Make time, make it a priority, and January is the perfect time because January is National Blood Donor Month. It’s a time for us to thank our regular donors and we want to invite those first-time donors as well.”

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Hinds attributes the shortage to several factors,including the post-holiday period, highlighting that this time of year typically witnesses a decline in donations due to holiday travel and inclement weather disrupting scheduled blood drives. Lifesouth frequently organizes blood drives at local high schools, and school closures or extended breaks significantly impact their inventory as well. According to Hinds, the many units of blood that come from drives held at Crenshaw County Schools and at surrounding schools are very important to Lifesouth. 

Dozier resident Kelly Hamm emphasized the importance of frequent blood donations, sharing her personal experience. Her son Elliot has been battling Leukemia since August 2022. During a hospitalization in June, he had multiple blood and platelet transfusions.

“I learned during that stay that there had been a massive trauma that required the hospital to put all non-emergent blood transfusions on ‘pause’ until they knew they had enough blood to handle the situation,” Hamm said.

These pauses usually last about 24 hours, according to hospital protocol. The next day, almost every patient on the eighth floor, including Elliot, received a blood transfusion and those patients had become emergent transfusions or very near to it within that 24-hour window. 

“I don’t want to think about what might have happened if the hospital didn’t have protocols like that in place,” Hamm said. “The policy is certainly in place to ensure they have prepared enough blood for emergencies, but what I know now that I didn’t just ten months ago, is that the state of Alabama, on average, only has a blood backup supply of about four days. That means for anyone in need of a transfusion, like Elliot, who needs them regularly, there is a critical supply shortage.”

The urgency extends beyond local concerns, as the American Red Cross declared a national emergency blood shortage Tuesday, exacerbated by a 20-year low in donors. Central Alabama is holding on to a mere one-day supply, intensifying the need for community action.

Hamm passionately encourages friends and community members to locate a donation center or blood drive nearby, emphasizing the significant impact donations can have on patients like Elliot. Contributions made through Lifesouth Community Blood Centers remain local.

According to Hamm, Elliot’s life, and that of many others, hinges on the availability of blood donations. Urging the community to step forward, she emphasized the joy and impact a single donation could bring to those in need.

Blood Donation Statistics:

  • The average red blood cell transfusion is approximately three units.
  • A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 units of blood.
  • Blood and platelets cannot be manufactured; they can only come from volunteer donors.
  • The blood type most often requested by hospitals is type O.
  • One donation can help save more than one life.
  • Red blood cells must be used within 42 days (or less).
  • Platelets must be used within just five days.

Luverne High School is hosting a Life South blood drive Jan. 11 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. To donate and help save lives, visit or call 1-888-795-2707 to find donation centers or other upcoming blood drives in Crenshaw County.