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Going Public: Southeast Region Experiences Effects Of Nationwide Blood Supply Shortage

Amy Turner, CST Public Affairs Office

The US is experiencing a nationwide blood supply shortage and The American Red Cross is urging those who are eligible, to give blood and help alleviate the situation. 

Due to a rise in emergency care requirements such as organ transplants, trauma care, and elective surgeries, the stock of whole and plasma blood supply is rapidly depleting. 

Joe Zydlo, Regional Communications Manager for The American Red Cross of Missouri and Arkansas, speaking on behalf of the Southeast chapter, explains that shortages are common during certain times of the year.

However, Zydlo mentioned that the shortage’s unique severity is a combination of location closures from 2020 like schools and additional aftermath from post-pandemic activities.

“As more people have gotten vaccinated, or just with things opening up more, you're seeing people go back to doing what they would normally do in the summer, and that's what we want people to do, but we also want them to remember to donate blood,” said Zydlo. “ Because that's something they did during the pandemic that was definitely a real positive thing--while people may not have gotten out and did the normal things that they would do during the summer unfortunately, we always continued to remember to donate blood.”

In comparison to 2019, the Red Cross has seen a 10% rise in demand from trauma centers for 2021, more than five times the growth of other facilities that provide blood transfusions.

Zydlo explains that the demands not being met already have caused dire consequences to hospitals and their patients. 

“What happens when they don't have the blood at the hospitals is you can't do the procedure. It's as simple as that,” said Zydlo. “If it's a trauma situation it could be life and death. If somebody is gravely ill and needs to have a procedure done, or treatment for cancer patients where they really need to refuel their body after chemotherapy or something, it has a huge impact.”

Zydlo also mentioned that blood donations may be low due to individuals experiencing a post-pandemic fear whether it be the safety of facilities, or uncertainty of eligibility and guidelines. 

“If you get vaccinated you can donate blood, there's no issue with that. We want to make sure that people aren't getting the wrong information about holding themselves back if they want to get vaccinated,” said Zydlo. “We're just asking people to make sure that they know which vaccination they did receive, and they can tell the blood technicians when they're going through the health history. As long as they feel good, that's the main thing.”

Zydlo mentioned that annual blood shortages, and blood shortages so severe can be avoided in the future by scheduling and maintaining your eligibility.

“56 days from the minute you donate, you can donate again sometime in the later portion of August towards the end of summer. I think if we get people to double-play those two donations we can avoid emergency type shortages,” said Zydlo. “There’s a constant need and we can only get it from people-- we can't manufacture it and can't be made synthetically, it's got to come from us, it's got to come from human beings.” 

To schedule an appointment to give blood, individuals can download the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org, or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).