COLUMBUS, Ohio — Right now there is a severe blood shortage across the country and the demand is high.
At the American Red Cross lab in Columbus, donations are delivered, tested, and then distributed to central Ohio hospitals. It’s a process that's happening so fast there's no time for the supply to build up in the event of an emergency.
"Blood is coming in and out very quickly,” said Rodney Wilson, American Red Cross communications manager. “It's a revolving door.”
Across the country, in the last three months alone, the American Red Cross has had to increase its distribution by 800 units more per day.
"During the pandemic our blood supply was OK. But now over the last few months, as activity and society have gone up, traumas have gone up, elective surgeries have gone up, the blood donation rates haven't kept pace with that increase in demand," explained Dr. Andrew Thomas, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Here in central Ohio, Dr. Thomas said hospitals are working with trauma centers on efforts to conserve blood.
“What we do at this point we put into place a policy where once a trauma patient gets to 30 units of blood, which is rare but happens, 30 units of blood transfused a second surgeon is called in to reassess the patient to see is this futile or should we continue,” he said.
“So it’s one small step to limiting what could be a 60, 80, 100 unit blood transfusion at 30 to reassess how things are going,” Dr. Thomas continued. “There are other steps that we can do around postponing elective surgeries that might need blood transfusions or other steps that would limit transfusions that are delivered. We’re not there yet. But we’re starting with just this step with trauma patients.”
For trauma patients like William “Skip” Thomas, who is in a crash last summer, ten units of blood helped save his life.
"I was bleeding so bad internally that people had to set me up at the scene just so I could get air into my lungs and I also had a heart attack on the scene," he said. "I donated for years to the Red Cross but I never realized that it took ten of my donations in order to save one life."
"We're one mass casualty event here away from having a major blood shortage problem," said Dr. Andrew Thomas.
And that's why there's an urgent call to donate blood.
“As soon as the blood is coming in and is tested and ready to go to hospitals it’s out the door very quickly without any time for us to build up an inventory in order to be prepared for any other types of emergencies,” said Rodney Wilson. "Giving blood is so easy.”
Curious to know where your donation goes? You can find out which hospital it will go to by downloading the American Red Cross app.
If you donate blood soon, you'll be eligible to donate again in time for our annual 10TV blood drive happening in August.