As the Red Cross put out an urgent call for blood donors, Rutland’s annual summer blood drive is taking on the name of one of it’s biggest supporters.
The Summer Gift-of-Life Mini-marathon has been rechristened the Peter Giancola Mini-marathon. Last year’s event was dedicated to Giancola, who died earlier in the year after a 10-year battle with cancer during which he received regular blood transfusions credited with significantly lengthening his life. Before his health put him on the receiving end, Giancola had been a frequent donor, and he remained a supporter of the Gift-of-Life Marathon.
“We really want to honor Pete’s memory,” organizer Steve Costello said. “Quite frankly, last year had an incredible energy. It was the first time in a few years we felt like we connected with the community in a meaningful way.”
Meanwhile, the American Red Cross (ARC) is hoping a large number of people turn out for the drive — and for other drives prior to it — because the nation is experiencing a severe blood shortage. The organization tries to maintain a five-day supply of blood. ARC representative Jennifer Costa said it is down to half a day in some areas.
The Red Cross tends to issue such calls once or twice a year, usually at times where donations have slowed due to factors like weather or school vacations. Costa said the last one was in March 2020 when the pandemic was beginning and the organization’s usual community partners were shutting down.
“Our fixed sites remained open, but the drives we depend on regionally were closing,” she said.
This time, though, Costa said the shortage was due to demand. She said hospitals nationally were seeing an increase in the need for blood for surgeries. Part of the cause, she said, was an increase in trauma surgeries attributed to accidents among people over-eager to be outdoors again.
“What we’re also seeing is patients who have been deferring care in the last 16 months are coming in sicker,” she said.
This has not, however, been the case at the local hospital, according to Rutland Regional Medical Center representative Gerianne Smart.
“We’re not having a problem because we don’t do a lot of surgeries that require a lot of blood,” she said. “There are cancer patients who need blood. Gastrointestinal — we do those surgeries. The real demand is in emergency surgeries and transplants.”
The hospital does not do transplants, Smart said, and has not had a spike in emergency surgeries. Its orthopedic surgeries, she said, don’t require blood.
Costa said the Red Cross will transfer supplies to where they are needed most.
The Peter Giancola Mini-marathon takes place from noon to 6 p.m. July 13 at the Army Reserve Center on Post Road. Donors will receive a free Hydroflask courtesy of Come Alive Outside as well as a $10 gift card. Check redcrossblood.org to find other drives in the area.