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Nationwide blood shortage prompts longtime Idaho donors to encourage others to donate

The American Red Cross is experiencing an emergency blood shortage nationwide. They believe the pandemic and the decrease in blood drives are to blame.

MOUNTAIN HOME, Idaho — Judy Lacks of Mountain Home has two items on her bucket list: Go ziplining and donate 50 gallons of blood. She accomplished the former in 2017 and now hopes to finish the latter in January 2022, around her 80th birthday.

"Well, it's just what you do," Lacks said. She added that this is how she is able to give back and help her community.

Her journey to donate 50 gallons began when a friend asked her to come to a Mountain Home church blood drive in 1983. Nearly four decades later, she travels every two weeks to the American Red Cross in Boise to donate blood platelets.

She said she made the move to travel to Boise every few weeks because her town didn't have many blood drives or resources to give blood.

"Three times a year isn't enough," Lacks said. "That doesn't add up."

As Lacks prepares for January, she isn't the only one thinking about blood donations. The American Red Cross said they and other health systems are experiencing an emergency blood shortage nationwide. 

The emergency aid organization believes the pandemic and the decrease in blood drives are to blame.

"If you can donate go out and do it," Lacks said. "It doesn't hurt."

"We are at our lowest point at this time of the year, since about 2015 so we're seeing a real emergency shortage right now," said Matthew Ochsner, the communications director for the American Red Cross of Idaho and Montana.

The American Red Cross said they need to collect more than 10,000 units of blood to get caught up, which is a challenge because only three percent of Americans donate blood.

"Every two seconds, someone in this country needs life-saving blood," Ochsner said. "Whether that be a cancer patient, someone going through a surgery, an accident victim, an expecting mom. Every two seconds someone is counting on the blood to be on those hospital shelves when they need it most."

American Red Cross said they are in need of type-O negative blood. Ochsner said they usually keep a five-day supply on hand, but it's dropped to a half day.

A donation can save up to three lives, which is why it's become much more than just adding up the numbers to reach 50 gallons for Lacks. At the end of the day, she does it for those who need it.

"I have 11 healthy grandkids and seven great-grands now and I look at how fortunate I am that they're all healthy," Lacks said. 

She added it breaks her hate to see pictures and hear stories of children battling cancer.

"You have to donate, if you can do it," Lacks said.

For ways to find a blood donation drive or services click here.

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