Blood donations - copy

The American Red Cross is urging healthy, eligible individuals to give blood or platelets.

Star Tribune Editorial Board

Last month, Jenapher Blair’s delivery of her child in a small-town Minnesota hospital suddenly took a life-threatening turn.

After her baby was born, Blair began to hemorrhage — and the Hutchinson Health Hospital didn’t have enough blood on hand to replace the massive amount she was losing. She might have died.

She didn’t, thanks to quick action by the Minnesota State Patrol, whose troopers delivered four units of blood from St. Paul to the Hutchinson hospital in just over an hour. Tag teams of troopers conveyed the blood by car, helicopter and car again. An officer said the State Patrol performs almost 100 blood or organ delivery runs every year.

The patrol’s performance seems nothing short of remarkable — and yet it wouldn’t have been possible if the American Red Cross had been unable to supply the blood in the first place. Blood reserves in Minnesota and around the country are low.

“There is a critical need right now,” said Sue Thesenga, a Red Cross spokeswoman. “The blood is going out faster than it’s coming in.”

Thesenga added that her organization is delivering blood products at a rate 12% higher than at this time last year.

The Red Cross aims to keep a five-day supply available and ready to go should the need arise. To meet that standard, the Red Cross needs a steady stream of donors willing to roll up their sleeves. Happily, more than one-third of Americans meet the eligibility criteria to donate blood. Less happily, fewer than 1 in 10 of those who are eligible actually do so.

It may be that common misconceptions are to blame. Some people mistakenly think that tattoos disqualify them from giving blood, or that chronic conditions like diabetes make their blood unwelcome. Still others may simply not realize how great the need is, or how universal: Every 2 seconds, someone needs a transfusion.

Therefore, now is the time for a larger supply of eligible donors, ready and willing to help.