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Blood donations at 20-year low. Red Cross urges Michiganders to give

Nurse preparing to get blood from donors at blood donations center, selective focus on man's forearm
The American Red Cross is offering people who donate blood in January a chance to win tickets to this year’s Super Bowl to combat what officials are calling an emergency blood shortage. (Shutterstock)
  • The American Red Cross says there is an emergency shortage of blood supply, a downward trend for the last two decades 
  • The group provides U.S. hospitals with 40 percent of blood and blood compounds 
  • Officials hope to entice donors by offering a chance to win Super Bowl tickets and other prizes

With blood donations at the lowest point in 20 years, the country — Michigan included — is facing an emergency blood shortage, according to the American Red Cross. 

That includes a 7,000-unit shortfall in blood donations between Christmas and New Year's Day that caused the organization to distribute type O blood products to hospitals only.


Now the humanitarian organization is urging people to give, this month enticing donors with a chance to win Super Bowl tickets. 


Blood donations through the Red Cross have steadily decreased over two decades, with 40 percent fewer donations now than 20 years ago. Just 3 percent of people who meet the age requirements to donate blood do so through the Red Cross.

The group would need to receive 12,500 blood donations daily to meet the needs of patients in nearly 2,500 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country, including Michigan, said David Olejarz, regional communication director for the organization. 

“Blood cannot be manufactured or stockpiled,” Olejarz said.

In hopes of increasing blood donors, the Red Cross is offering one donor tickets to the Super Bowl. 

All donors this month are entered into a contest to win a trip for two to the Super Bowl in Las Vegas, including access to pre-game activities, tickets to the game, round-trip airfare, three-night hotel accommodations and a $1,000 gift card.

The incentives continue over the next months. February donors could receive a $20 Amazon gift card. Those who give between March 1 and 24 will receive a $10 pet supply gift card that can be used at any pet supply store and will be entered in a drawing for a $3,000 gift card

The need for a steady stream of donors is always there and weather, illness and other unknowns can increase the blood demand. 


“More challenges lie ahead as the potential for severe winter weather and seasonal illness may compound the dire blood supply situation,”  said Dr. Eric Gehrie, executive physician director for the Red Cross, in a statement. “Donors of all types – especially those with type O blood and those giving platelets – are urged to give now.”

Hospitals need to keep a supply of blood on hand to treat the expected and the unexpected, said Dr. Tammon Antoinette Nash, assistant professor at Wayne State University. 

“We always have to be prepared for the potential that there will be a trauma or some kind of emergency need for blood products. So we can't use our blood supply down to nothing,” said Nash, who is also a pathologist at DMC Harper University Hospital in Detroit. 

How to donate

Donation centers, blood drives and appointment booking can be found online.

Donors must be 17 years old or 16 with parental consent, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health. Donors can give blood every 56 days, up to six times each year. 

Three times a year, donors who meet certain qualifications can donate two units of red blood cells and then have their plasma and platelets returned during the process. These "power red" donors must have blood type O, A negative or B negative blood to donate. Male donors must be at least 17 years old, over 5 feet tall and weigh 130 pounds. Female donors must be 19 years old, 5 feet, 3 inches tall and 150 pounds.

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