Red Cross faces ‘dire’ blood shortage

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The American Red Cross is facing its worst blood shortage nationally in over a decade.

In recent weeks, the American Red Cross had less than a one-day 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.

Low blood supply levels pose risk to patient care and force doctors to make difficult decisions about who receives blood transfusions and who will need to wait until more products become available.

For the next month, about 53% of Red Cross donation appointments are open in Western Washington. 

Appointments can be made using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Blood donations are critically needed to help prevent further delays in vital medical treatments, and donors of all blood types and especially type O are urged to make an appointment now to give in the weeks ahead.

The Red Cross continues to confront challenges due to COVID-19, including a decline in blood donors and staffers for blood drives. The pandemic has also 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. “Please, if you are eligible, make an appointment to give blood in the days and weeks ahead to ensure no patient is forced to wait for critical care.”

This January, the Red Cross and the NFL are partnering to urge individuals to give blood or platelets and help “tackle the national blood shortage,” according to a news release from the Red Cross.

Those who show up to donate blood, platelets or plasma in January (which is National Blood Donor Month) will automatically be entered for a chance to win a getaway to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles. And those who show up for donation appointments will automatically be entered to win a home theater package and a $500 e-gift card. Terms apply; visit RedCrossBlood.org/SuperBowl for more information.

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 important role by greeting, registering, answering questions and providing information to blood donors throughout the donation process. Blood transportation specialists 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.

The Red Cross is screening all blood, platelet and plasma donations from self-identified Black donors for the sickle cell trait. This additional screening will provide donors with an additional health insight and help the Red Cross identify compatible blood types more quickly to help patients with sickle cell disease who require trait-negative blood.

Blood transfusion is an essential treatment for those with sickle cell disease, and blood donations from individuals of the same race, ethnicity and blood type have a unique ability to help patients fighting sickle cell disease, according to the release.

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 generally 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.

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