Tuesday, January 25th, 2022 Church Directory
Blood Donor Ambassadors. Clear Lake Lions Club members Judy Warren (seated on left), Bev Edling and Sue Severson (standing) provided the volunteer firepower for Monday’s Red Cross Blood Drive, held at St. Marcus Catholic Church in Clear Lake. (Photo by Mark Kolbinger.)

Clear Lake Lions respond to blood donation crisis

The United States is facing a blood shortage of epic proportions, as the demand for the life saving product is dangerously close to exceeding donations.  As a result, the Clear Lake Lions Club stepped forward and this year will host four blood drives instead of its usual two.

Monday evening at St. Marcus Catholic Church in Clear Lake, the club held its first event of the year, where about 40 units of blood were collected from area donors.

“We were asked to host four drives this year so we decided to try it and see how it goes,” says Lions club member Judy Warren, who helps in coordinating the events. “St. Marcus has been very generous in allowing us to use their facility.”

For many years it was the Clear Lake Lioness Club that hosted the blood drive, but that club recently merged with the Lions. Warren has been involved for several years and says that the technology used by the Red Cross has made hosting the drives much easier.

“People can go online and pre-register their appointments so it is easier to fill the spots,” Warren says. “I didn’t have to make a phone call [to potential donors] until the night before and that was because we had two cancellations.”

The Lions’ next blood drive is scheduled for May 16.

Historic Shortage

Hospitals across the region are currently experiencing a blood shortage that is causing elective surgeries to be postponed, according to Carrie Carlson-Guest, the Regional Communications Director for the Red Cross in Minnesota and the Dakotas.

“We normally have a three to five day supply of blood and products on the shelf, and right now we have less than one day’s worth,” Carlson-Guest says.  “I’ve been with the Red Cross for twenty years and I’ve never seen it like this.”

The COVID-19 pandemic is certainly causing challenges for the Red Cross, as donations are down and many drives are being postponed or canceled. Many drives that were historically held at schools, colleges and businesses are no longer happening, and at the ones that are held, extensive cleaning protocols and other safety enhancements have slowed down the process and resulted in fewer units being collected.

The solution is that society needs more citizens willing to step up and donate blood or plasma.

“We like to remind people that even if you were deferred from donating in the past, it is a good idea to check again because the guidelines change quite often,” Carlson-Guest says, noting that some people have avoided the drives due to concerns about COVID-19.  “Vaccinated people can still donate and there is a vast list of safety protocols we are following to keep people safe... it’s safe to come and donate blood.”

January has been designated as National Blood Donor Month and to go along with the promotion, the Red Cross is offering donors the chance to win several prizes, including an all expense paid trip to the Super Bowl. It’s the intrinsic rewards, however, that bring the vast majority of people to donate at the blood drives. Blood and the products produced from the blood are not only used in surgeries, but also used in treating people with cancer and a variety of other diseases.

Carlson-Guest also notes that the Red Cross has made it easier than ever to find a blood drive or schedule an appointment.  Potential donors can visit the website RedCrossBlood.org or they can download the Red Cross app, both of which allow searches for appointments based on dates and locations. There is also the chance to use a RapidPass, which cuts down on the time a person will be at the donation event by allowing them to answer many questions ahead of time.

Another unique and fulfilling part of using the app to schedule an appointment is that after a donation, the donor can track the journey of their blood, from testing to storage and ultimately where the blood is sent and used.

“For some people, that kind of closes the loop and they can see where their donation has helped another person,” Carlson-Guest notes.

For some people, donating blood is not possible due to medical reasons, but there are still opportunities to volunteer as a Blood Donor Ambassador. Volunteers are always welcomed and provide an important service so the phlebotomists and other Red Cross staff can focus on the donation part of the experience, rather than having to check people in or observe them in the canteen after the do