Red Cross warns blood crisis risks healthcare
January 20, 2022
RICHLAND—The American Red Cross faces its worst blood shortage in over a decade. The national blood crisis poses risks to patient care. It forces doctors to make difficult decisions about who receives blood transfusions and who will need to wait until more products become available.
Blood and platelet donations are critically needed to reduce delays in vital medical treatments. Donors of all blood types, especially type O, are urged to make an appointment to give in the weeks ahead.
In recent weeks, the Red Cross had less than a one-day supply of critical blood types and limited blood product distributions to hospitals. At times, as much as one-quarter of hospital blood needs are not being met.
The Red Cross continues relentless challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including an estimated 10% decline in overall blood donations since March 2020 and a 34% drop in new donors since last year.
Cancellations of blood drives, including a 62% drop in schools and colleges, have worsened the situation.
“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. “Please, if you are eligible, make an appointment to give blood or platelets in the days and weeks ahead to ensure no patient is forced to wait for critical care.”
Over 60% of donation appointments for the next month remain unfilled in Central and Southeast Washington. Make an appointment to give blood or platelets as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
January is National Blood Donor Month, and the Red Cross has partnered with the NFL to help tackle the national blood shortage. Those who donate blood, platelets, or plasma in January will automatically be entered for a chance to win a getaway to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles or a home theater package and a $500 e-gift card. Terms apply, so visit RedCrossBlood.org/SuperBowl for more information.
California resident Kala Breder knows all too well 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 blood supply at the hospital and 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.”
In addition to blood donors, the Red Cross also needs the help of volunteers to support critical blood collections across the country. Blood drive volunteers play an essential 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 across the country. To volunteer to support Red Cross blood collections, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.
To ensure safety, each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest safety and infection control standards. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment before arriving at the drive. Additional precautions, including face masks for donors and staff, regardless of vaccination status, have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance.
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 from a mobile device or computer on the day of donation. To utilize a RapidPass, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Red 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 required at check-in. In Washington, donors must be 18 or over; teenagers ages 16 and 17 may donate with parental consent.