Red Cross faces ‘national crisis’ with low blood supply

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SYRACUSE — The American Red Cross faces a national blood crisis–its worst blood shortage in more than a decade, the organization said Tuesday, adding that dangerously low blood supply levels are posing a concerning risk to patient care and forcing doctors to make difficult decisions about who receives blood transfusions and who will not.

Blood and platelet donations are critically needed to help prevent further delays in vital medical treatments, and donors of all blood types – especially type O − are urged tomake an appointmentnow to give in the weeks ahead, the agency said. In recent weeks, the Red Cross has had less than a day’s supply of critical blood types and has had to limit blood product distributions to hospitals. At times, as much as one-quarter of hospital blood needs are not being met.

Pandemic challenges

The Red Cross said challenges because of COVID-19, including about a 10% overall decline in the number of people donating blood as well as ongoing blood drive cancellations and staffing limitations, has contributed to the shortage.

Additionally, the pandemic has contributed to a 62% drop in blood drives at schools and colleges.

“Winter weather across the country and the recent surge of COVID-19 cases are compounding the already-dire situation facing the blood supply,” said Dr.
Baia Lasky, medical director for the Red Cross.

Over the next month, about 32% of donation appointments remain unfilled in the Eastern New York Red Cross Region, which includes Oneida, Madison and Herkimer counties.

Individuals can make an appointment to give blood or platelets by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, going onlien to RedCrossBlood.org or by calling
1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), the American Red Cross announcement added.

Who is helped

Kala Breder knows how dire not having blood available can be. In July 2020, hours after the birth of her son by emergency Cesarean section, Breder developed a complication and began bleeding uncontrollably. As doctors fought to save her life, they exhausted the entire blood supply at the hospital as well as all available blood within a 45-mile radius.

Ultimately, she was flown to another hospital because there wasn’t enough blood locally.

Breder credits the 58 different blood products she received with helping save her life. “Without one of those,I probably wouldn’t be here,” she said. “I needed every last unit.”

Volunteers needed

In addition to blood donors, the Red Cross also needs volunteers to support critical blood collections across the country. Blood drive volunteers play an important role by greeting, registering, answering questions and providing information to blood donors throughout the donation process.

Blood transportation specialists – another volunteer opportunity − provide a critical link between blood donors and blood recipients by delivering blood to hospitals in communities. To volunteer to support Red Cross blood collections, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.

Blood drive safety

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the agency’s standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including face masks for donors and staff, regardless of vaccination status – have been implemented. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive.

Donors can also save up to 15 minutes at the blood drive by completing a RapidPass. With RapidPass, donors complete the pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of donation, from a mobile device or computer. To complete a RapidPass, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPassor use theRed Cross Blood Donor App.

To donate blood, individuals need to bring a blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification that are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in ge inerally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also must meet certain height and weight requirements.

About the American Red Cross

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters, including fires; supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The organization depends on volunteers and the generosity of the public to deliver its mission. For information, go onlne to redcross.org.

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