Blood supplies at dangerously low levels nationwide, groups say
The American Red Cross declared a national blood shortage on Sept. 11.
(The Center Square) -
The U.S. is experiencing a blood supply emergency. The emergency exists in Illinois and elsewhere across the country.
Lifesaving blood products that cancer patients, sickle cell patients, hemophiliacs and others need for survival are at dangerously low levels, Dr. Dan Waxman, vice president and senior medical director of the Versiti Blood Center, said.
“We are at such a shortage of daily donations that this is the first time we have gone on appeal in Illinois since the pandemic,” he said.
Versiti is a non-profit blood health organization that is the main supplier of blood products for 85 partner hospitals. Versiti has facilities across northern Illinois where civic-minded people can donate blood as often as every eight weeks.
Waxman blames vacations and summer distractions for the drop in donor appointments. Normally, the Versiti Blood Center has a three-day supply of blood products on their shelves. That supply is down to less than one day of supply. Each donation center has as many as 300 available donation appointments every day that need to be filled.
Hospitals need blood product inventory on hand to meet the needs of regular patients and to cover emergency needs, Waxman said.
“We do not ever want to have a situation where we do not have blood for a patient who needs a transfusion. We never want to get into a situation like that,” he said.
The American Red Cross declared a national blood shortage on Sept. 11. Blood product distributions to hospitals are outpacing the number of blood donations coming in. Since the beginning of August, the Red Cross has seen blood supply levels drop by nearly 25%.
It can take weeks for blood product inventories to build back up. The Red Cross estimates that they need to collect 10,000 additional blood products each week over the next month for the blood supply to reach safe levels. Each blood donation creates 3 different blood products that can literally save lives, Waxman said.
People as young as 16 can give blood as long as they have parental permission. Anyone 17 or older – even elderly people in advanced years – can safely give blood. All blood types are needed. There is a critical need for type O blood and platelets.
Two-thirds of all children diagnosed with cancer require a blood transfusion. People with sickle cell disease need as many as 100 units of blood per patient each year. Many cancer patients depend on platelet donations.