Last updated: February 26. 2014 6:16AM - 798 Views

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Each winter, the medical community braces itself for flu to reduce blood donations. This winter, flu season and treacherous weather have dealt the U.S. blood supply a one-two punch.

Bad weather canceled hundreds of blood drives. In all, 1,500 drives in 34 states were canceled between Jan. 2 and Feb. 17, said Lindsay English, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross.

That translates to 50,000 uncollected donations; the equivalent of the entire Red Cross organization shutting down for three days, England said.

Locally, American Red Cross recruiters have reached out to past donors, asking them if they are eligible and willing to donate. The Red Cross also is shoring up its mobile blood drive schedule.

The need is great.

It’s a fairly simple process, as outlined on the American Red Cross website. You register. Someone takes your medical history and provides a mini physical. You make the actual donation — approximately one pint of blood. And then, you get a snack.

Plus, it’s easy to find out about when and where you can give blood as all drives are listed and searchable by ZIP code, at www.redcrossblood.org. You also can call 1-800-RED-CROSS.

Visiting one of these drives is a profoundly generous thing to do. Four types of transfusable products can be taken from blood: red cells, platelets, plasma and cryoprecipitate. According to the American Red Cross, a pint of whole blood usually provides two or three of these products. So each donation has the potential to save three lives.

The two most common reasons people cite for not giving blood are they haven’t thought about it and they don’t like needles. The needle simply can’t be avoided, but for the others, we ask you to think about it.

It’s a gift that really does save lives.

— The News-Enterprise, Elizabethtown, Ky.

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