The waiting room of the Blood Bank of Alaska's Soldotna location was empty. On the wall above a set of water coolers was a poster reading, "In Alaska, fewer than 5 percent of eligible donors give blood."
Due to this statistic, Alaska is in the middle of a blood shortage crisis.
A code red has been placed on blood types A negative, B negative and A/B negative, meaning that each of these blood types has dropped below a one-day supply.
"It's a roller coaster," said David Large, director of marketing and public relations for the Blood Bank of Alaska. "It's kind of scary."
January is National Blood Donor Month and Large said the blood bank is actively seeking donations.
"The Blood Bank of Alaska is reminding Alaskans to make a resolution to start a new habit this year," he said. "Give the gift of life by becoming a regular blood donor."
The Blood Bank of Alaska is based in Anchorage and they distribute blood to all of Alaska's 23 hospitals. Eligible donors are allowed to give blood every 56 days, but Large encourages everyone to give at least four times per year.
"The need for blood increases each year in Alaska and it is becoming more critical than ever that people give on a regular basis," he said.
To be eligible to donate blood, participants must be between the ages of 17 and 74, weigh at least 110 pounds, and generally be in good health. Donated blood is shipped to Anchorage and then distributed on an as-needed basis to state hospitals for transfusions. According to Large, having blood on the shelf makes as much difference as anything.
"The need for blood in Alaska's hospitals is real for patients with cancer, organ transplant recipients and for accident victims." Large said. "A single pint of blood could help save the lives of up to three Alaskans."
Although the blood bank has not had to begin shipping blood to Alaska from the Lower 48, it is an option. The blood bank is a part of America's Blood Centers, an organization that makes up 50 percent of the nation's blood supply. The Red Cross makes up 45 percent and individual hospitals make up the remaining five. The blood bank has the option of getting needed blood through this program, but it would be expensive and take between 14 to 16 hours to be ready for distribution.
"We're kind of isolated, so we kind of try to take care of ourselves," Large said.
In order to stay on track, the blood bank needs to collect around 2,500 pints of blood every month. According to Large, this means that blood drives must see at least 3,000 people since many donors don't qualify for donation.
The local Blood Bank of Alaska is located in Soldotna at 35911 Kenai Spur Highway Unit 12. It is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays. Walk-ins are welcome as time permits but donors may schedule appointments at 260-5672.
"Please make a commitment to save lives in your community," Large said.
Hannahlee Allers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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