Blood crisis: Supply at a critically low level

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A national shortage of blood could put patients at risk. The American Red Cross says dangerously low blood supply levels are posing a concerning risk to patient care and forcing doctors to make difficult decisions about who receives blood transfusions and who will need to wait until more products become available.

“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 or platelets in the days and weeks ahead to ensure no patient is forced to wait for critical care.”

In recent weeks, the 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.

Mandy McWherter, a representative of Red Cross South Carolina, says in order to fully meet hospital requests, 280 units of blood would need to be collected each day in South Carolina.

“There is a huge need for blood and because we’re the nations leading supplier of blood, we supply 40% of the nations blood supply, when we collect blood here in South Carolina, first we’re taking care of those local hospitals. Then because of our national network, we’re able to send blood supplies wherever they’re needed most,” said McWherter.

One patient who is feeling the impacts of the blood shortage is only 11 years old. Dreylan Jamison, of Columbia, has Sicle Cell Anemia. Back in November, Jamison was admitted to the ER for RSV and Acute Chest Syndrome. Doctors ordered a blood transfusion

“In those days he was just very lethargic, kind of out of it because his hemoglobin levels had dropped. And of course, he was on around-the-clock pain medicines and he was just very out of it. So, we knew that he was going to need a transfusion but the wait was the thing that had us on pins and needles,” said Jamison’s mother, Vesha Jamison.

Instead of waiting less than 24 hours for a transfusion, the amount of time Jamison typically has to wait for a transfusion, it took two days.

“It was just very scary not knowing exactly when he would get the unit of blood,” said Vesha Jamison.

Experiences like this one are why the Red Cross is asking anyone and everyone who can donate, to do so.

“It’s my family today, but it could be yours tomorrow,” said Jamison.

Over the next month, about 71% of donation appointments remain unfilled in the South Carolina Red Cross Region. Make an appointment to give blood or platelets as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

The Red Cross and the NFL are partnering this January, during National Blood Donor Month, to urge individuals to give blood or platelets and help tackle the national blood shortage.

Those who come to give blood, platelets or plasma in January will automatically be entered for a chance to win a getaway to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles. Additionally, all who come to give during January will receive a voucher redeemable for an iced coffee and donut at all participating Dunkin’ locations in South Carolina, while supplies last.

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