DUNDALK, MD — Nearly two years into the coronavirus pandemic, the American Red Cross is facing its worst blood shortage in more than a decade as omicron variant cases surge in Dundalk and other cities across the country.
In a statement recently released, the Red Cross called the shortage a “national blood crisis” that's forcing doctors to delay life-saving treatments for those in need.
In response, the organization called on Americans to donate blood as soon as possible to “prevent further delays in vital medical treatments.”
“While some types of medical care can wait, others can’t,” Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer of the Red Cross, said in a statement. “Hospitals are still seeing accident victims, cancer patients, those with blood disorders like sickle cell disease, and individuals who are seriously ill who all need blood transfusions. We’re doing everything we can to increase blood donations to ensure every patient can receive medical treatments without delay, but we cannot do it without more donors.”
Last year, the Red Cross saw a 34 percent decline in new donors and a 10 percent decrease overall since the pandemic’s start. At the root of the decrease: ongoing blood drive cancellations and staffing limitations, especially as coronavirus cases surge in nearly every state.
According to the Red Cross, the Red Cross supplies nearly 40 percent of the nation’s blood to hospitals in Maryland and other states; however, blood centers across the country say they have less than a one-day supply of some blood types.
Right now, hospitals on average are receiving 25 percent less blood than requested, according to the Red Cross. Hospitals need blood for surgeries, transplants, cancer treatments and chronic illnesses.
The shortages of nearly every type of blood affect people in communities throughout the United States. Among them is Kristen Mill of Spring Grove, Illinois, who suffers from ongoing health problems caused by a tick bite.
During a recent visit to the hospital for a transfusion, Mill was told the facility had no blood that matched her blood type, and she would have to wait until the right match became available, she told the Red Cross.
“The hospital came to me and they apologized, and they said, ‘We’re so sorry, our blood bank is depleted to the point where we don’t have anyone that matches with you,’” Mill said. “It’s very scary, especially if you don’t know if the blood is coming because this is something that you need to live.”
January also marks National Blood Donor Month, which focuses on raising awareness about the need for blood donations.
In addition to blood donors, the Red Cross also needs volunteers to help facilitate blood drives in Dundalk and other locations. Volunteers help by greeting and registering donors, answering questions, and providing information about the donation process. To volunteer to support Red Cross blood collections, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.
You can search for blood drives in the area here.
To learn more about blood donation, visit www.redcrossblood.org.