Written by Will Lewis
On March 27, the Southeastern Community Blood Center released a “critical appeal” to all donors in the Valdosta and Cordele areas. The statement said that due to an increased amount of transfusions, area hospitals have run low on O negative blood.
“There is always a need for it, and there is always potential that we could run out,” Claire Bowen, OneBlood community relations coordinator, said. “There is always that chance that patients that need it will have to wait longer for a transfusion, or they may not be able to receive it until it is too late.”
Pat Michaels, a media and public relation representative at OneBlood, disagreed. He said that the SCBC would make sure that no area hospitals ran out of blood “at all cost.”
“We would go to the end of the earth to make sure that we did not run out of donations,” Michaels said.
The O negative shortage comes on the heels of an American Red Cross blood shortage in July of last year. The shortage was announced as the greatest in 15 years.
“In a worst-case scenario, more serious procedures — things like liver transplants that require a lot of blood — will not start until there is enough blood on the shelves,” Richard Benjamin, chief medical officer of the Red Cross, said about the July shortage in a USA Today article. “We need to do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t get to that point.”
Michaels said that the current shortage would not get that severe. “One thing that we do is we have to make sure that we have enough for hospitals at all times so that we never have to be in a situation where surgery would have to be postponed,” he said.
Southeast Community Blood Center has an elaborate donor network to guarantee the blood is available for hospitals.
“As a last resort we would ask for units from other blood banks around the country,” Michaels said. “We have a network of blood centers that work together, America’s blood centers, and we would work with them to procure the units that we might not have.”
Michaels said that shortages are common in the spring due to an increase in surgeries.
O negative blood is convenient because of its versatility. It is the only blood type that is universally acceptable by all transfusion patients. OneBlood emphasized the need for O negative as a driving force to bring out more donors.
“Trauma patients, premature babies and those undergoing emergency surgery rely on O Negative type blood, and it is currently at a critical level as we enter this holiday weekend,” the March 28 statement, said.
“In an emergency situation if someone was to come in and need blood, we would not have to test their blood type beforehand, we would just give them O negative,” Bowen said.
According to the release, donations can save up to three lives per donor.
The shortage emerged in the last few weeks as supplies dwindled. Bowen said that normally they try to maintain a five day supply of each blood type at every hospital.
Bowen said that normally SCBC won’t release a statement requesting a specific blood type unless supplies fall beneath the two day supply line.
SCBC holds blood drives regularly in the Valdosta area and makes a consistent effort to visit VSU campus once a month.
According to Bowen, the shortage falls on the cusp of the summer months which are the slowest for SCBC.
“It gets worse as the summer months come on, people get out of their regular donating habit,” Bowen said. “People go on vacation and schools go out for summer, so it is even more difficult at that time.”
Schools and universities are a major source of blood for SCBC, with 15 percent of all donations coming from high school students.
SCBC is a division of OneBlood Inc. The nonprofit organization is solely responsible for the blood supplies of both of Valdosta’s area hospitals, South Georgia Medical Centre and Smith Northview Hospital.
OneBlood held a blood drive during the inauguration week of VSU President Dr. William McKinney in honor of his investiture.
“We probably will look at going to Valdosta State a little more often in the future, because the blood drives that we have there are so successful,” Michaels said.
Michaels said that there will be no more blood drive on campus this semester.