It’s summer, and with the hot weather comes the ever present emergency blood shortage that is prompting the American Red Cross to issue an urgent call for eligible donors of all blood types — especially type O — to give now and help save lives. 

The Red Cross has escalated its call for blood and platelet donors after a difficult Independence Day week for donations. More than 550 fewer blood drives were organized by businesses and other community groups last week than during a typical week as individuals across the country celebrated the holiday and enjoyed summer activities.

This could equate to as many as 15,000 fewer donations than needed, causing donations to now be distributed to hospitals faster than they come in.

Speaking from personal experience when my husband was diagnosed with leukemia in 2013, people all across our country depend on blood and platelet donations for lifesaving treatments and emergency care.

It’s critical people donate blood to meet these needs, because when the blood is not available, lives may be lost.

You may have never donated blood or you may have donated once or twice in your life, but you’re needed to give as soon as possible to help save patient lives. Yours may be that donation a patient is counting on to see tomorrow. 

This need is especially critical for type O blood donors, according to the American Red Cross.

Type O is the most in-demand blood type and often the first to be depleted from hospital shelves during a shortage. Type O negative is the universal blood type and what emergency room personnel reach for when there is no time to determine the blood type of patients in the most serious situations.

Type O positive is the most common blood type and can be transfused to Rh-positive patients of any blood type.

So roll up your sleeve please and visit Grace Baptist Church located at 1058 Buckshoal Road in Virgilina anytime between noon and 6 p.m. Thursday to give your lifesaving blood.

And if that date is not convenient, you will have another chance to give your blood from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday at American Legion Post 8 located at 1710 Jeffress Blvd in South Boston.

To schedule an appointment to donate, use the free Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

The Red Cross has added about 6,500 additional appointment slots at donation centers and community blood drives across the country over the next few weeks to accommodate more donors.

Donation appointments and completion of a RapidPass online health history questionnaire are encouraged to help reduce the time it takes to donate.

Because of generous donors like you, the Red Cross is able to provide blood products for patients like my husband and Anne-Marie Griffin who was born on Jan. 12, 2015 at the gestational age of only 25 weeks weighing a mere 14.8 ounces.

She spent 200 days at Duke in the NICU and received several life-saving blood transfusions during her stay there. Thanks to the life saving donation of others’ blood, many doctors, therapists and the support and prayers of this loving community, she has made amazing progress over the past three years.

Another beneficiary of blood donations is 9-month-old Krew Anderson.

Krew is a happy, laid-back baby boy. His wide grin frames two tiny teeth. He likes to play with balloons and just experienced his first boat ride and fireworks show, but Krew has faced more challenges in the last four months than many people will experience in a lifetime.

In March, Krew was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a type of cancer that causes bone marrow to produce a large number of abnormal blood cells. Since then, he has gone through four rounds of chemotherapy and received 15 blood and platelet transfusions to date.

“The first time he got [a transfusion], I was just super nervous and didn’t know really what was happening,” said his mother, Stephanie Anderson. “Now, when he gets one, I’m like, ‘Yes, please, get him some blood to help him get more energy and back to normal.’”

Krew’s father, Richard Anderson, donated blood a couple of times a year prior to his son’s diagnosis, but after seeing Krew receive blood, he now plans to give as soon as he’s eligible again.

“For me, just knowing that if it happened to me, it can happen to anyone. I want to make sure there’s enough blood out there for everyone, and that there’s no shortage,” he said.

Facing a decline of about 80,000 new Red Cross blood donors each year for the past several years, the Red Cross launched the Missing Types campaign in June to encourage new donors, and those who have not given recently, to donate blood. While the campaign has already inspired thousands of new donors to give, the Red Cross is now calling on all eligible blood and platelet donors to roll up a sleeve as soon as possible to overcome the emergency blood shortage.

Through the Missing Types campaign, which runs throughout the summer, the letters A, B and O — letters used to identify blood types — disappeared from corporate logos, celebrity social media accounts and favorite websites to illustrate the critical role every blood donor plays in ensuring blood is never missing from hospital shelves. 

We encourage everyone who is able to please donate a unit of blood at either of these two local blood drives. Please do this for other children like Anne-Marie and Krew and for people of all ages who may need the lifesaving gift of blood.

We hate to think of how different the stories of Anne-Marie, Krew and my husband would have been if people had not donated their blood.

It really is a matter of life and death.

Paula I. Bryant is the editor of The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at pbryant@gazettevirginian.com.​

Paula I. Bryant is the editor of The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at pbryant@gazettevirginian.com.