National Blood Shortage Looming: Red Cross

The Red Cross said there has been about 80,000 fewer donations than expected since May

This year’s sweltering summer has parched wells, lakes and reservoirs across the country, but the season has also dried up the flow of blood into the nation’s blood banks.

The American Red Cross is warning Americans of a looming blood shortage over the summer and are urging people to start donating to avoid it.

Tony Briggs, a spokesman for the American Red Cross, Southern California region, said the drop in donations over the summer comes from students, who are a large proportion of donors, no longer giving because they are out of school. Briggs said the region is around 5 percent below normal levels.

Briggs added that while the organization generally sees a drop in donations during the season, this decline is worse than most years. The Red Cross said there has been about 80,000 fewer donations than expected since May.

“It puts the Red Cross in the position of having to reach out to the public and ask them to donate,” Briggs said.

The Red Cross said blood banks are especially in need of types O negative, B negative and A negative blood, but donors of all types are necessary.

“Just because they’re not on your critical shortage need list, doesn’t mean we don't want them to roll up their sleeves,” Briggs said.

City of Hope in Duarte, which specializes in cancer treatment, has the highest transfusion rates in Southern California, with 30,000 units being transfused annually.

Kasie Uyeno, manager of blood donor recruitment at City of Hope, said the hospital is suffering from a seasonal lack blood donations. She said this past summer they had only a two-day supply at one point. 

Donated blood has to go through a screening process before it gets to a patient, meaning it can take days before it is used, a critical amount of time in an emergency situation.

“We like to have as much ready as possible,” Uyeno said. “It’s hard to get donors to donate when there’s no crisis in front of them.”

Uyeno added if the hospital doesn't have the blood it needs to supply the patients, the blood has to be purchased from outside sources which siphons money away from cancer research.

“The community needs to understand that it’s important to donate prior to the crisis,” Uyeno said. “Every summer we face this struggle.”

To donate to the American Red Cross visit their website to find the closest blood donation site or call 1-800-733-2767. To give blood to City of Hope visit their website or call 626-471-7171.

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