MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – As the nation continues to experience a severe shortage in blood supply, medical experts are explaining the importance of having enough blood amid an ongoing pandemic — and a worsening hurricane season.
Doctors with Tidelands Health, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, said blood donations are needed to make sure hospital shelves remain stocked for patients in need.
“As we go into known times of increased demand or increased need, we also have to tamper that out and walk a fine line with our ability to preserve it, to safely store it,” said Ashley Capps, vice-president for nursing and operations at Tidelands.
The nation’s blood shortages, a result of increased trauma cases, transplants and elective surgeries amid the pandemic, have put stress on hospitals across the country.
“Some hospitals are being forced to slow the pace of elective surgeries until the blood supply stabilizes, delaying crucial patient care,” Chris Hrouda, president of Red Cross Biomedical Services, said in a June press release. “As we return to pre-pandemic activities and resume travel to visit loved ones, we want people to remember the needs of patients this summer and the power so many of us have to help save lives.”
Capps added that blood is perishable and needs to be stored carefully to make sure it doesn’t spoil. But it also needs to be used as soon as possible.
“We want to use it as we receive it,” Capps said. “You don’t want to have too much, and you don’t want to have too little.”
Capps said Tidelands Health communicates with the Red Cross often to make sure the hospital has enough blood supply for everyday treatment and also in case a disaster strikes. Doctors at the hospital say they’re lucky the shortage has not greatly affected the facility but still they urge people to give blood — in Myrtle Beach and elsewhere across the country.
“It is kind of a tight rope that you walk there … so we do anticipate surges and we anticipate weather events. It is very critical that we maintain our courier blood products quickly and move blood within our system, and so that is what we rely on,” Capps said.
The nation’s hospitals are currently in need of all blood types, although certain blood types are in higher demand than others, the Red Cross said. As of June 14, the organization reported only “half” a day’s supply of Type O blood stockpiled. Type O, meanwhile, is “the most transfused,” with Type O negative being a universal blood type.
“There is also an emergency need for platelets,” the Red Cross noted, adding that this portion of blood is often donated to cancer patients.
Capps added that it is common to see a rising blood need during the summer, too.
“Emergency care, trauma-related care and surgical care for our community butted to a population of patients like oncology patients or hematology patients that rely on serial blood transfusions,” Capps said.
Both the Red Cross and Capps are urging able Americans to donate blood as soon as possible. To make an appointment at a Red Cross center in your area, download the Red Cross Blood Donor App (or visit RedCrossBlood.org) or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Tidelands Health is also hosting two blood drives in July.
“Our teams are working around the clock to meet the extraordinary blood needs of hospitals and patients – distributing about 75,000 more blood products than expected over the past three months to meet demand – but we can’t do it without donors,” said Hrouda. “Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood.”