GALVESTON — While the extra time off that comes with the holiday season is a welcome time for many, there is one place that takes a particular hit from the departure of students and the closure of businesses.
The UTMB Blood Center is anticipating a shortage in local blood in the first few weeks of January, as its supplies are diminished because of the holiday season.
Dr. Alexander Indrikovs, the director of the UTMB blood bank, said that because schools and businesses — two of the top suppliers of blood donations — are closed, there is often a shortage of supplies at the beginning of the New Year.
“During the holidays, people’s minds are on doing something else,” Indrikovs said.
When there is less local blood, the center must use outside suppliers from places like Houston or as far away as Miami. But because the same strain for blood is being felt around the country, the surest way to keep the supply up is to have local donors.
The center is having a blood drive Friday and Saturday to try to minimize the annual shortage.
“We could have a blank check,” Indrikovs said. “But it doesn’t matter if you have the money — you can’t find the blood. Everyone is in the same situation this time of year.”
The blood center collected about 5,000 pints this year, well short of the more than 12,000 pints that it distributes to UTMB’s hospitals and Shriners Hospital for Children. Indrikovs said donated blood is used for trauma victims, as well as patients undergoing surgery and chemotherapy.
It takes about two days between the time blood is donated for it to be processed for use, Indrikovs said. Blood that is collected on one day is usually used within two to three weeks.
According to the Red Cross, nearly 44,000 pints of blood are needed every day. The Red Cross collects up to six million pints of blood a year.
The blood center has gradually been rebuilding itself in the four years since Hurricane Ike. The storm destroyed the center’s two collection vans and its donor room. Officials at the center have since received one replacement van and are working out of a smaller space at UTMB.
“We’re collecting two-thirds of what we were collecting before Ike,” Indrikovs said, adding that plans for a new donor room are in the works for 2013.
He said the goal is eventually for the center to become self-sufficient.
Indrikovs said while people of all blood types are encouraged to give, there is a particular need for Type O donors.
At a glance
WHAT: Winter Blood Drive
WHEN: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday
WHERE: UTMB Blood Center, Room 5.212, John Sealy Annex, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston