You may not have heard, but nationwide, regional branches of the Red Cross blood banks are in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. It amounts to an extreme drought in our blood supply that has forced a quarter of American hospitals to postpone or even cancel nonemergency operations -- including heart bypass procedures -- due to lack of blood. Part of the problem, it seems, is perhaps overstringent screening measures for blood safety that include many overseas travel restrictions levied on would-be blood donors. Those measures, we're told, are being reviewed and revisited. Still, only 5 percent of eligible donors currently give blood, according to the Red Cross. In many of its facilities, the Red Cross has only half a day's supply of blood rather than the three to five day reserve needed to prepare for emergencies. Jennifer Garfinkel, a spokesperson for the American Association of Blood Banks, said that, in disaster situations, "It's the blood on the shelves that saves lives. It has already been processed, tested, given the green light to be transfused." Without that reserve supply, as a nation we're simply unprepared for mass disasters.
What can you do right now to help? Visit--or at least call--your nearest Red Cross office to find out how you can give blood!