by Kimberly Allen, RN
It appears as though the “worst shortage in over a decade” of 2012 is continuing into 2013. The Red Cross along with America’s Blood Centers are reporting a continuing trend in the severe blood supply shortage. One Red Cross official has stated that “this is one of the worst ones the Red Cross has seen.” In addition to the severe shortages being experienced throughout the Northeast there are numerous major cities throughout the country that are in urgent need of blood including Los Angeles, St Louis, Detroit and Philadelphia.
So why is there such a shortage? Well there are 2 major reasons for the current shortage being seen not only in the US, but worldwide. First of all, there has been a significant increase in demand. As new technology has made more complex procedures more common, more blood is needed. The increase in heart surgeries and organ transplants alone require significant amounts of blood. For example, a liver transplant can use as much as 120 units of donated blood. The advances in trauma care and surgery has also increased the need for donated blood. Another reason for the shortage is the weather. Super storm Sandy on top of the numerous severe storms early last summer which cause the cancellation of numerous blood drives. Then came winter. The many severe winter snow storms and heavy snow fall have lead to not only numerous cancelled appointments but the cancellation of many blood drives. Then you add the fact that this winter has been one of the worst cold and flu seasons in years many schools and companies that sponsor blood drives had to cancel because too many employees and students were sick with a cold or the flu.
Officials at the Red Cross state they need 80,000 units of blood available every day, however, it currently only has 36,000 units per day. Many people don’t realize just how much blood is used everyday. In the US, every 2 seconds someone needs blood. Everyday over 44,000 units of donated blood are needed. Many people also don’t realize just how much blood is needed to manage and/or treat certain diseases. For example, over 80,000 Americans have sickle cell disease which requires them to get frequent blood transfusions throughout their life. It takes approximately 3 pints for the average red blood cell transfusion. Every year over 1 million people are told they have cancer and a significant portion of them will need blood during their chemotherapy treatments, sometimes daily. Also, all the blood used in the emergency room to treat trauma victims comes off the shelves. Did you know that a single victim from a car accident can need as much as 100 pints of blood?
Blood can not be manufactured. The only way to supply enough blood is through the generosity of donors. Approximately 38% of the US population is eligible to donate blood. Donating blood is a very safe and simple process that takes just about 1hour 15 minutes from the time you arrive until the time you leave of which only about 10 minutes is spent actually donating the blood. Every potential donor goes through a 4 step process which includes registration, medical history and a mini physical exam which includes checking your blood pressure, pulse and temperature as an elevated temperature usually indicates some type of infection. They will also check your hemoglobin to be sure it’s high enough for you to give blood. When that is complete, a nurse will insert a sterile needle into a vein in your arm for the donation. After the donation the donor is given refreshments. The average donation is 1 pint per person. A donor that is healthy can donate red blood cells every 56 days and platelets in as little as 7 days, however, no more than 24 times per year.
For every pint of blood donated, 3 lives can be saved so consider taking the time to donate today.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.