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Healthy donors needed as COVID-19 disrupts nation’s blood supply
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Healthy donors needed as COVID-19 disrupts nation’s blood supply

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Annie Petho, 60, of Merrillville, prepares to donate blood at the Red Cross building on Monday in Merrillville. 

MERRILLVILLE — About 1,500 American Red Cross blood drives have been canceled and 46,000 donations have gone uncollected nationally since Friday amid the U.S. coronavirus crisis. 

That's according to Kristin Marlow-Kellemen, executive director of American Red Cross of Northwest Indiana.

Marlow-Kellemen joined North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan on Monday at the American Red Cross building, 791 E. 83rd Ave. in Merrillville, to call attention to the need to maintain the nation's blood supply.

The call comes as hospitals brace for potentially seeing an overwhelming volume of severely ill patients, and even the healthiest of individuals hunker down and avoid public spaces.

The nation's blood supply — which is already running low — is further at risk given the loss of donations in recent days and weeks. 

Potential blood donors have canceled appointments in recent days, and donation drives have been canceled amid the possibility for a widespread outbreak of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus. 

"What we have going on with the Red Cross and these (public) facilities closing and people canceling is a blood supply that was already at risk, In order to be able to provide for our neighbor, our family, and making sure that people have access to blood, we have to replenish that," Mrvan said. 

"I want to implore you if you are healthy and you have the capability, recognize that if you come in, your safety is the first concern and secondarily, we want to make sure we ramp up our blood supply," he said. 

"We've got to be loud, get folks out and make sure we've been able to respond. Critical people will go untreated if we don't get this turned around," Marlow-Kellemen said. 

Stephanie Henning, 25, of Crown Point, is a teacher at a Merrillville elementary school who drove to the Red Cross Merrillville location on her lunch break Monday. She said she chose to give blood after hearing about shortages resulting from reduced donations because of the pandemic.

Monday marked Henning’s first time giving blood.

“With everything I heard, I wanted to help,” she said.

Like most of us, the pandemic is having an impact on Henning’s personal life. She getting married soon, and her honeymoon is supposed to be in Italy and Greece in May. Those plans appear very uncertain at this point.

Annie Petho, 60, of Merrillville, also chose to give blood at the Merrillville location Monday after receiving a Red Cross email noting an urgent need.

“I’m taking precautions but not letting it run my life,” Petho said of the coronavirus and the risk of venturing out to people within her age demographic. “I did go to the store recently but did not over-purchase. I’ll be cautious, but I won’t let it control me either.”

Marlow-Kellemen said it is safe to give blood, and medical staff members are taking every precaution possible with social distancing and disinfecting stations. 

The Red Cross and North Township Trustee is holding a blood drive from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Wicker Park Clubhouse, 2125 Ridge Road in Highland, Mrvan said. Walk-ups are welcome but people can also register online or call 219-306-1344 to reach a township crisis team member, he said. 

Donor sites can be found by visiting www.redcrossblood.org.

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North Lake County Reporter

Lauren covers North Lake County government, breaking news, crime and environmental issues for The Times. She holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting from UIS. Contact her at lauren.cross@nwi.com or 219-933-3206.

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