Local help needed as Red Cross faces widespread blood shortage

National News

Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood, according to Red Cross. But, the U.S. is now experiencing a severe shortage with the reopening of the country in the pandemic.

O-Negative blood is known as the universal donor because it can be given to patients of any blood type. But the Red Cross says there is less than a half-day’s supply of type O blood and a critical need for other blood products.

“The demand for blood has really sky rocketed,” says Dr. Ross Herron, divisional chief medical officer at the American Red Cross.

A recent blood drive in Blair County saw over 100 units of blood being donated to the Red Cross to try and help with the local blood shortage.

WHERE TO FIND A RED CROSS DONATION CENTER NEAR YOU:

  • Altoona Red Cross – 415 Orchard Ave Suite 10, Altoona, Pa
  • Johnstown Red Cross – 250 Jari Drive, Johnstown, Pa
  • State College Red Cross – 135 S Pugh St, State College, Pa

Dr. Herron says with pandemic restrictions lifting, the nation is seeing a historic need for blood. A rise in elective surgeries that had been postponed, more car accidents and other traumas, as well as an increase in organ transplants are depleting the nation’s blood supply.

“We’ve been collecting a lot of blood, but with the demand so high, the inventory that we have on hand has really plummeted to very low levels. We have to get more donors in the door and have those units available for the patients who need them,” Dr. Herron says.

The Red Cross says it also needs platelet donors. That’s because platelets only have a shelf life of five days. Dr. Heron says: “If we don’t have constant donations, then we quickly will get behind the eight ball and not have enough for patients’ needs. And in fact, we’re constantly each day trying to stretch our platelet supply as much as we can.”

Dr. Herron is urging old and new donors to give blood.

Donor Courtney Kirkbride knows how important it is. “I never miss my eight weeks and I’ve given over 50 units of blood in my lifetime,” she says.
She’s already planning her next appointment. “It always feels good to give blood. It’s such an easy thing for me to do and I know it makes such a difference,” Kirkbride says. It’s a difference that could save many lives.

Red Cross officials are seeing a 10% rise in red cell demand from hospitals with trauma centers in 2021. That’s more than five times the growth of other facilities that provide blood transfusions.

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