Fort Worth, TX,
10:30 AM

National Blood Shortage: Support Your Local Supply

With donor numbers at an all-time low, it’s more important than ever to give blood for patients in need.

By Charlotte Settle

In January, the American Red Cross declared an emergency blood shortage, citing the lowest number of blood donors nationwide in 20 years. Many factors have made it challenging to keep and grow a dedicated donor base over the last two decades. DSC_0430

Serelia Ball, Manager of Lab Operations at Cook Children’s, and James Black, Senior Public Relations Specialist at Carter BloodCare, offered their insight into how the shortage is impacting the local blood supply and how we can help. 

“We haven't had to cancel or postpone any surgeries due to the shortage, which is wonderful,” Ball said. “But we do have times where we have to wait a little bit longer to get the products in, and we get nervous.”

“Local donors save local lives,” Black said. “When we have folks who donate within DFW, all that blood helps patients here in the area.”

How Seasonality Affects Supply 

The general blood supply tends to see a seasonal slump during the winter months. Illnesses like the flu and COVID-19, as well as inclement weather, often prevent donors from showing up. During the severe weather and school closures in early January, Carter BloodCare was forced to close all of its donor centers and cancel all mobile blood drives.

“One drive typically collects around 1500 units of blood, and one unit can save three lives," Black said. “When we miss a day, we’re unable to serve about 4500 patients.”

The blood supply also struggles during the summer, when families go on vacation and kids are out of school. 

“High school blood drives make up 25% of the community blood supply, so when they're on break, that has a huge impact on the overall supply,” Black said. 

A Simple Solution 

Ball and Black strongly encourage donors to give blood consistently, rather than waiting until a national emergency. 

“I think a lot of folks tend to want to donate only when there’s a big emergency or a natural disaster, but the reality is that by the time that emergency happens, it's almost too late,” Black said. “We always try to remind folks to make donating a habit. Even if you donate just twice a year, that’s going to make a huge difference.” 

Donors can give whole blood every 56 days, double red cells every 112 days, platelets up to 24 times per year, and plasma every 4 weeks. Because red blood cells have a shelf life of 32 days and platelets only last for seven, spacing out donations also helps to ensure that no blood goes to waste. 

A Limitless Need

Though the national blood supply has dwindled, the demand will never cease. Every two seconds, patients across the U.S. of all ages and medical conditions need blood. 

Six-year-old Josey, for example, has been fighting a rare, undiagnosed blood disorder for two years. Josey commutes two hours from Brownwood to Fort Worth up to four times per month for life-saving blood transfusions. 

Seven-year-old Lincoln is fighting T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer that causes him to have low platelet counts. Lincoln and the countless other kids fighting this form of leukemia desperately rely on platelet donations, but on multiple occasions, Lincoln’s transfusion appointments have been at risk of delay due to low supply. 

When you choose to give blood, you choose to help save the lives of patients like Josey and Lincoln. In many cases, just one donation has the potential to change multiple lives. 

“We can put several different babies on one bag of blood,” Ball said. “We stretch our red cells and platelets as best as we can here at Cook Children's so that we don’t waste any of it.”DSC_0428

Donate Today 

Carter BloodCare is the local blood supplier for Cook Children’s. Schedule an appointment at any of their 25 designated donor centers or visit a mobile blood drive, where you can donate seven days per week. For a comprehensive list of donor eligibility requirements, click here.