The period from Memorial Day to Labor Day is generally regarded as the “trauma season”, a time when people are hitting the roads and waterways, resulting in a greater number of mishaps that can land people in the ER.
But the holiday season is quickly emerging as a secondary spike, according to Gary L. Wease, MD, a general surgeon and director of Trinity Health Trauma Services.
“It’s our second trauma season,” Dr. Wease said. “You have the holiday rush; people are out shopping and traveling to be with their families – oftentimes in inclement weather. It makes for a busy season.”
Trauma is one factor, but not the only reason why blood needs increase during the mid-winter months. A variety of medical circumstances contribute to the need for blood. “A lot of people, especially at the end of the year have met their deductibles for insurance and they’re trying to get those surgeries scheduled,” Dr. Wease said.
Red blood cells, plasma, and platelets are also critical in the treatment of cancer patients, dialysis patients, and people being treated for bleeding disorders, he noted.
According to Dr. Wease, Trinity Health utilizes about 250 units of blood per month. “That’s only blood cells, red blood cells,” he clarified. “That doesn’t take into account all of the blood components such as plasma and platelets.”
Vitalant, the region’s blood supplier, states that someone in the U.S. needs blood every two seconds. Moreover, blood has a shelf life, which is why it is important to continuously replenish the supply.
Alas, this time of year usually results in a shortage of blood supplies. Donations decline for a number of reasons. Busy holiday schedules and travel plans make it difficult for regular donors to keep their appointments, while seasonal illnesses, like colds and flu, prevent people from giving blood until they have fully recovered.
Vitalant offers convenient blood donation opportunities, and donors are always welcome at the Minot donation center, with no appointment needed.
“There is no substitute for human blood; nothing takes its place,” Dr. Wease emphasized. “It’s not like there is something we can make in a lab that takes the place of people’s blood to transfuse.”