Due to an unprecedented national blood shortage, Tri-City Medical Center is encouraging San Diegans to donate blood to meet the needs of the healthcare community. This emergency is all about supply and demand.
A readily available supply of blood is critical to meet daily patient needs – whether it’s for trauma, surgery or transfusions after cancer treatments. The San Diego Blood Bank reports that it must collect more than 350 units of blood each day to meet the needs of local patients.
According to the American Red Cross, blood and platelet donations typically drop off during and immediately after the winter holidays due to busy schedules, school breaks, colds and flu, and bad weather that can cancel blood drives. Now add in the ongoing effects of COVID-19. Many people are deferring their donations because of safety concerns and uncertainty about whether they are eligible to donate after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine or a positive test. Mobile blood drives sponsored by hospitals, businesses and schools have also been cancelled because of the pandemic.
These types of issues have disrupted the nation’s blood supply, resulting in dangerously low inventories, especially for blood types O positive and negative. According to the Red Cross, only 7% of the population are O negative, but the need for O negative blood is greatest as it is the universal blood type most often used during emergencies.
But the demand for blood is always there.
“In the ICU, our biggest demand for blood is for patients experiencing a severe gastrointestinal bleed or undergoing major surgery like open-heart,” said Winnie Madrid, RN. She has worked in Tri-City’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for more than 17 years. “So far, we have been able to get the blood we need; the only minor delays I have encountered occur when the patient has an antigen or needs platelets. Thankfully, we have not had to cancel any surgeries yet, but this may change as the pandemic comes and goes in waves.”
The pandemic has increased the demand for blood and blood products (red cells, platelets, plasma, cryoprecipitate AHF or “cryo” and granulocytes). Doctors are seeing more advanced diseases that require more aggressive treatments in people who have postponed medical treatments, often resulting in increased hospital admissions.
The Association for the Advancement of Blood & Biotherapies (AABB), America’s Blood Centers and the American Red Cross are urging eligible, healthy individuals to contact their local blood center and make an appointment to donate blood today to meet the escalating demand.
“People who have received the COVID-19 vaccine and booster can still donate blood, platelets or plasma if they meet certain criteria,” said Madrid. “It is so important that these individuals continue to donate as our blood supply is the lowest it’s been in years.”
The American Red Cross follows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) blood donation guidelines:
• Eligible blood donors who are vaccinated with an inactivated or RNA-based COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by AstraZeneca, Janssen/Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Novavax or Pfizer do not have to wait to donate as long as they are symptom-free and feeling well at the time of donation.
• Eligible blood donors must wait 14 days before giving blood if they have:
• Received a live attenuated COVID-19 vaccine or do not know what type of COVID-19 vaccine they received
• Been diagnosed with COVID-19, had a positive COVID-19 diagnostic test, or are experiencing symptoms.
“Those of us who work in the ICU at Tri-City know first-hand that donating blood saves lives,” said Madrid. “Each day, we come to work to provide the highest quality of care to our patients, and this includes being able to give them the blood or blood products they need to survive. We are grateful to everyone in our community who donates blood so that all patients can feel better and live a good life.”
One pint of blood can save up to three lives. Donate today as the need has never been greater. To be eligible to donate whole blood, the American Red Cross requires that a person must be at least 16 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in generally good health.