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National shortages underscore pleas for blood donations

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Mike Moen

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(Prairie News Service) The American Red Cross said it is experiencing an emergency blood shortage.

A regional facility in North Dakota said its situation is not quite as dire, but stressed the need to maintain strong supplies from donors.

January is National Blood Donor Month and the urgent plea from the Red Cross noted the U.S. faces the lowest number of people giving blood in 20 years.

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Monica Janssen, donor relations coordinator for the Dak Minn Blood Bank in Grand Forks, which is a hospital-based donation site in Grand Forks, said even though they are in better shape, it does not mean volunteers should stop coming by.

"If we aren't getting our blood needs from our local community here and we have to go out and request blood nationally, we might not have that as a backup," Janssen explained.

While donor support has been strong on the local level, Janssen emphasized they could use more supplies of O-negative. She feels the public might just assume blood supplies will always be there, but situations can change quickly, and not having enough from donors could be life or death for hospital patients in need.

Janssen stressed it is important to remember blood donations expire after 42 days. 

"You can only donate every 56 days, so there's that little bit of days in between where you can't donate," Janssen noted. "It's the timing -- that's what's really hard for people to understand -- that there's a timing issue."

She added another reminder is North Dakota teenagers age 16 and older can help with donations. It is not 18 and older as some might think. In states where the minimum age is 16, parental consent is required.