A Look Inside: Blood Shortage

Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 8:33 AM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The American Red Cross continues to face a national blood crisis- its worst blood shortage in over a decade, posing a concerning risk to patient care. WEAU’s Bob Gallaher explains what the Red Cross is doing to help make sure every community in America has the needed blood on a daily basis.

“Right now, we’re facing a less than one day supply of blood and blood products. And that is hard on physicians making choices about who in hospitals receive blood transfusions when the blood supply is not as robust as we would like it to be.”

Mary Jane Thomsen, Executive Director of the Northwest Wisconsin Chapter of the American Red Cross says they’ve experienced a ten percent decline in the number of people donating blood since the pandemic began.

“Now, we are not immune just like other health care organizations to the effects the pandemic has had including staffing shortages and the inability to have as many blood drives as we usually do. So we are looking for donors to come in, roll up their sleeves and give blood and make appointments,” says Thomsen.

Thomsen says the Red Cross is able to make specific products out of each donation.

“When you think about a unit of blood, we are able to make red cells that are typically the most commonly used blood component at our hospitals. And red cells go to treat people in emergencies who need a unit of blood and for scheduled surgeries. And those are needed many times a day for many patients. And when you think of emergencies and traumas we need to be able to transfuse quickly and effectively,” explains Thomsen.

Situations that require large-scale transfusions include people involved in accident and new mothers who are having complicated childbirths.

“In those cases we need to have many units on the shelves to help being part of saving someone’s life,” adds Thomsen.

Blood and platelet donations are critically needed to help prevent further delays in vital medical treatments.

Thomsen, says, “There is many in need who have cancer, most of us have been affected by cancer ourselves or a loved one in our lifetime. And we need to have platelets on hand which is another component of a unit of blood to transfuse after people receive cancer therapies. We often ask people to come in on weekends, Friday, Saturday and Sunday to give blood and most people don’t know why. Platelets only last for five days and we have to be able to transfuse those and test them in a five-day time frame. So if someone comes in on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, we are able to have those at the ready Monday morning for those scheduled cancer therapies, it’s just so important.”

And at a time when many businesses and organizations across the country are experiencing pandemic challenges, the Red Cross, like all of us are learning how to live in this new environment. How we spend our time, how we give back, how we make a difference in the lives of others and donating blood must continue to be a part of it.

“People who are eligible to give blood, 38-percent of the population is eligible and with that, only five to eight percent of the population does of that 38-percent. So we ask people to consider that and know that 1 in 3 of us at some point in our lives will need a blood transfusion and it’s important that it’s there when people need it,” says Thomsen.

If you would like to donate, you can sign up right now. You can go to redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

In addition to blood donors, the Red Cross also needs the help of volunteers to support critical blood collections across the Chippewa Valley and across the country.

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