Donating blood was top priority Wednesday for Dannielle Nickels.
“I’m O-negative, and everyone can have a little bit of me,” Nickels joked as she settled in to a comfy reclining chair at the Indiana Blood Center in Terre Haute.
Despite the winter cold, she traveled from Dana in Vermillion County to extend her arm for the donation.
“I try to donate when I can,” she said.
Knowing she is considered a “universal donor” because of her O-negative blood type, Nickels said she has been donating since 2009.
But Wednesday was the first time she had donated double red cells — a process in which a machine safely takes two units of red blood cells during one donation while returning plasma and platelets to the donor.
While she prefers to visit mobile blood drives closer to home, she said she drove 45 minutes to Terre Haute because she learned the blood supply has reached critically low levels.
As of Wednesday, Indiana Blood Centers continued to issue notices to encourage blood supply to stem the shortage.
“We are sitting at about 800 units, with less than a one day supply of O and B types,” said Andrea L. Fagan, IBC’s director of public relations and marketing.
“We have strong appointments today, but Friday and Saturday are not where they need to be. We’re specifically asking donors to now make appointments for those two days.”
Normal inventory levels average about 2,000 units daily for the blood center, which collects donations at six centers around the state. Area hospital customers who receive IBC blood include Terre Haute Regional Hospital and Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes.
As of Tuesday, O-positive, O-negative, and B-negative units were back-ordered and all other types were dangerously low.
Amy Rose at the blood bank on South Third Street said blood is collected and distributed each day from the center, as are platelets and plasma.
“We are always in need of platelets, because they have a shelf life of just five days,” Rose said. “We are always in need of blood, too.”
Winter holidays, in addition to the cold winter weather, have slowed blood donations.
“School is out, and the majority of our blood drives happen at high schools and universities,” she said. “With them on winter break, we don’t have them right now.”
Mobile blood drives have been impacted by the frigid temperatures and donors are urged to donate at a donor centers.
As Deuce Payne, team lead at the blood bank, prepared Nickels for her donation, he explained that the double-red process is beneficial for both the donor and the recipient.
Since twice as many red blood cells are collected during the process, it is like the donor is giving two pints of blood rather than one, he said. Also, a recipient can receive two pints of blood from the same donor, rather than a pint each from two separate donors. That means less chance of reaction to the different antibodies that come from two donors rather than one donor.
According to the blood center website, one pint of blood can help up to three people. Each unit of blood can be separated into four components — red cells, plasma, cryoprecipitate and platelets. Those components can help as many as three different hospital patients.