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Nicole Moen, right, preps Denise Blaskowski for a plasma draw in the Vitalant mobile unit outside Missouri Valley Petroleum in Mandan on Wednesday afternoon. Blaskowski said she regularly donates plasma.

Hearing about a blood shortage in the area encouraged Bismarck resident Shannon Weber to donate for the first time at the Vitalant blood drive at Missouri Valley Petroleum Inc. in Mandan on Wednesday.

“I didn’t know anything about (the shortage) until I saw the post (on social media) that they need it and I thought, ‘Well shoot, why not?’” she said.

Blood donations drop off in the summer because people are busier, according to Vitalant, a nonprofit transfusion organization that provides blood for more than 1,000 hospitals around the country, including in North Dakota and parts of South Dakota. The blood supply in the region is "critically low," with hospitals not having enough to meet their needs, according to the organization.

One blood donation can help up to three patients. If 100 people don't donate, that means 300 patients might not receive blood transfusions. 

“The Dakotas, we need 250 donations each day to serve our area hospitals,” said Travis Dressler, donor recruitment manager for Vitalant, which is reaching out to loyal donor bases, hosting daily blood drives and encouraging everyone to bring a friend.

Weber said she would not have thought to donate had she not known about the blood supply shortage.

“People don’t usually donate because they aren’t asked,” Dressler said. “We ask people to step up.”

Denise Blaskowski had donated multiple times previous to Wednesday's blood drive and said he does it “to help people.”

Harley Simonson first donated during a high school blood drive when she was 16 years old. After hearing about the blood shortage she decided to donate again, and she plans to continue doing so.

Simonson knows all too well how much a blood transfusion can help a patient. Her younger sister needed transfusions when she had spinal surgery because she had a dangerous bleeding condition, and that motivates Simonson to donate.

“It’s a good thing to do … it makes you feel good about yourself,” she said. 

The blood supply was critical in February because of people getting sick and because of snow storms that impacted Vitalant blood drives, but the supply then was "not even this bad," said Colleen Scott, a donor recruitment official with the company. The supply started to get back to normal levels, but after Memorial Day “it got really bad,” she said. Holidays typically lead to more accident and trauma patients, causing a higher need for blood.

The region is in need of all blood types, but especially O positive and O negative. O negative can go to anyone, while O positive can go to 85% of the population, said Scott.

Since red blood cells are good only for 42 days and platelets for five days, Vitalant wants frequent donations. A person can donate every 56 days, as long as they meet certain restrictions.

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