It’s been a slow couple of months for the American Red Cross’s blood collection efforts, both on a national and statewide level. As a result, the Red Cross is urging citizens to get out and give blood as soon as they can.

Two blood drives will be held Friday, Jan. 13 in Brentwood to give residents the opportunity to do just that. One will be held at the Brentwood Library from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and another will be held at the Best Buy on Galleria Boulevard from noon to 4 p.m.

Tiffany Taylor is the external communications manager for the Tennessee Valley blood services region of the American Red Cross. That region covers Middle Tennessee, parts of western Kentucky and a portion of southern Illinois. She says there is a vital need for blood donations within this area.

“We are currently at an emergency need for blood donations,” Taylor said. “In the Tennessee Valley, blood services region we collected 1,097 fewer donations in the months of November and December than our target goal.”

It’s the same story on the national level.

“Nationally we collected about five percent less than what we expected, which equals out to 37,000 donations,” she said.

The reasons for the shortages, she said, are numerous. Hectic schedules and travel plans around the holidays could have led fewer people to give. Many colleges that might host blood drives at other times of year are largely bereft of students during Thanksgiving and winter breaks.

There’s also the matter of the weather.

“We’ve experienced a few blood drive cancellations recently with our snow last week,” Taylor said. Other parts of the country have seen a more drastic number of canceled blood drives in recent weeks.

Whatever blood is collected in Brentwood tomorrow will first go towards shortages in the region.

“The American Red Cross is a national network, however we always make sure we meet the local blood demand first,” Taylor said. “If someone donates in Brentwood, we want to make sure first and foremost that the local needs are met. Then, if there is a need somewhere else nationally, we are able to send it to other regions where the blood is needed.”

If the blood shortage is not enough to motivate people to go out and donate, Taylor said they should consider another reason. January is National Blood Donor Month.

This month, she said, is a great time for people who have donated before to show their commitment to the work the American Red Cross does and donate again. “It’s also a great time for people, if they’ve never donated before, to become a blood donor,” Taylor said.

Although neither the Brentwood Library or Best Buy are still taking online reservations for blood donations, people can feel free to walk in and donate, although they may have to wait a bit longer.

Taylor recommended that people who wanted to walk in should check out the Red Cross RapidPass system online. This allows people to complete in advance a health questionnaire that they would otherwise have to fill out at the site where they are giving blood. Those who use RapidPass can either print out their results or bring a mobile device to show those results to Red Cross workers. Taylor says it shaves off about fifteen minutes from someone’s usual donation process.

Taylor said all blood types are needed. She also mentioned one option other than a regular whole blood donation that people can make. This option is called a Power Red donation. When someone donates Power Red, they are hooked up to a special machine that extracts red blood cells from the blood, but returns the plasma and platelets to the donor’s arm.

The process allows people to safely donate double the amount of red blood cells that they would donate in a typical session.

“It’s like taking two donations in one,” Taylor said.

It also has the potential of saving six lives, rather than the three that can be saved from one whole blood donation. More information can be found here.

For a full list of upcoming blood drives in the area, visit the American Red Cross website.

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