‘We have to fix this’: Doctors plead for blood donations amid national shortage

Health

SAN DIEGO – Typically, the San Diego Blood Bank likes to have a seven-day supply of all blood types available. But amid a national blood shortage, they are down to just one day’s supply.

The American Red Cross declared a nationwide blood shortage Tuesday due to record low levels. All blood types are needed, particularly Type O-positive and Type O-negative.

According to the Red Cross, 25% of hospital blood supply needs are not being met.

Dr. Ghazala Sharieff, chief medical officer at Scripps Health, said the shortage is causing another level of stress.

“We have to fix this,” Sharieff said. “As an emergency doctor, we are always taught resuscitation. It’s the golden hour after trauma and if we don’t have the blood to do that, lives will be lost.”

No longer armed with enough blood supplies, hospitals are fighting to keep operating and treating patients.

“Just two days ago, we had two patients that needed massive blood transfusions and we frankly didn’t have enough,” Sharieff said. “We had to start calling around to regional hospitals to say ‘Please can we have some blood so we can resuscitate these two patients.’ At the same time, we had a heart patient who needed a blood transfusion.”

While this time of year is slow for blood donations, the omicron surge is playing a role in the national shortage.

“We have individuals who are canceling their appointments because they are sick and we have a lot of mobile drives canceling as well,” said Claudine Van Gonka, director of communications and marketing for the San Diego Blood Bank. “It’s the perfect storm that’s causing a dip in the supply.”

Blood banks across the U.S. are putting out a call for help, asking anyone to give a pint.

But for those who have had COVID-19 or been exposed to the virus, the blood bank asks potential donors to wait 28 days before making a donation.

“My dad was a Marine and he gave blood and he told me what a good thing it was, so I kept it up,” donor Dee Coffey said. “All the staff here are wonderful. It doesn’t hurt and it’s only about five to seven minutes.”

Donors to the Red Cross in the month of January also will be eligible to be entered into a drawing for a chance to win tickets to the upcoming Super Bowl in Los Angeles.

Appointments to the San Diego Blood Bank can be made here and the American Red Cross here.

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