Blood donors needed to fill emergency shortage

Claire Cleveland

By Claire Cleveland / NewsBreak

(Denver, CO) Colorado may soon face a blood shortage crisis, as blood donations fail to keep up with need this summer.

Vitalant, the nation’s largest independent, nonprofit blood services provider, says the blood supply for life-saving medical interventions is down nearly 50% since the start of the summer. The blood service is a provider for 75 hospitals in Colorado and about 900 hospitals nationwide.

“Hospitals need people to donate during these critical weeks,” said Dr. Ralph Vassallo, Vitalant chief medical and scientific officer, in a press release. “Patient blood needs don’t conform to a predictable schedule. Several patients may experience emergencies, while a planned surgery could suddenly require dozens of units of blood for one patient. Hospitals must have blood available to take care of everyone.”

Vitalant urges eligible donors to schedule an appointment as soon as they can to help meet the need. Donors with type O, known as the universal blood type, are especially needed. O-Positive blood has fallen to a one-day’s supply over the last few days, according to Vitalant.

“Whether it’s a baby in the neonatal ICU, a trauma patient with an unknown blood type, or a patient receiving a stem cell transplant, we rely on O-negative red cell units being readily available to provide safe blood transfusions for our patents,” said Dr. Mary Berg, professor of clinical practice in pathology and medical director for transfusion services at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital, in a statement.

In addition to whole blood, platelet donors are also needed because platelets have a short shelf life and must be used within a week of donation.

Donating blood just got a little easier after the Food and Drug Administration changed eligibility requirements for people who have recently traveled to France, Ireland or the United Kingdom. Previously, travelers to those areas could not donate because of a risk of contracting a variant of mad cow disease, called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). Thee donors are once again eligible if they meet other eligibility requirements.

“We are eager to welcome the tens of thousands of donors who have recently become eligible to give blood due to the FDA’s updated guidance,” said Cliff Numark, Vitalant senior vice president, in a news release. “We also encourage everyone who at one time may have been told they couldn’t give blood to take another look at current eligibility requirements, as this is just one of several updates over the past few years.”

To check eligibility requirements or make an appointment visit vitalant.org or call 877-25-VITAL (877-258-4825).

Vitalant is running a special donor appreciation event through the end of August to encourage donations. Donors will receive a $6 gift card and will be automatically entered to win one of five $3,000 gift cards.

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Claire Cleveland is a Denver-based freelance writer with a background in health and science reporting. She's covered the pandemic extensively and local news in Colorado. Previously, Claire was a reporter and producer for Colorado Public Radio.

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