A matter of life or death

By Jeff Kurowski | The Compass | June 15, 2022

Baby formula, bicycles, lumber … COVID-19-related shortages continue. The Washington Post recently reported that even potatoes and cream cheese have been affected by supply issues. While most people can’t help resolve these shortages, many can take one big action to address another supply problem: a shortage of blood.

In February, the American Red Cross, which supplies 40% of the nation’s blood supply, released a statement declaring the worst blood shortage in a decade. On May 31, the Community Blood Center posted the following statement on its national website (communityblood.org): “O negative blood donors are needed immediately to help the Community Blood Center (CBC) stabilize its O negative blood inventory. Currently, the supply is dangerously low. While all blood types are incredibly important, Type O negative blood is often used in emergency situations when the patient’s blood type is unknown.”   

A sufficient blood supply is a matter of life or death. Brian Reignier of Green Bay is an example. In a June 7 press release, the American Red Cross Wisconsin Region shared Reignier’s story. In 2019, he began working on the Red Cross Blood Services Team in Northwest Wisconsin. Reignier’s life changed from blood collector to blood recipient this year.

He experienced complications from emergency surgery to repair an infected knee replacement. Reignier required an immediate blood transfusion.

“My doctor said if I would have waited another hour to go back to the hospital, that they would be speaking to family members and not me. The blood saved my life,” he said.

The story of Kristen Mill of Spring Grove, Ill., was posted on redcross.org. She suffers from health issues caused by a tick bite in 2008. Mill’s body doesn’t produce enough hemoglobin to carry oxygen in her blood. When her hemoglobin levels drop, blood transfusions are required. Last summer, she was told the hospital didn’t have her blood type.  

“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,’” said Mill. “It’s very scary, especially if you don’t know if the blood is coming, because this is something that you need to live.”

If you meet blood donor eligibility requirements, make an online appointment or call to give at an area blood center or a parish blood drive. 

If you have tested positive for COVID-19, you can still donate blood. According to thebloodcenter.org, if you tested positive, you must be resolved of symptoms for 10 days. If asymptomatic, you must wait 10 days from the date of your positive test result.

If you have received a COVID-19 vaccine, you can donate blood. There is no deferral time to donate if you are feeling well. You are not required to be vaccinated to donate.

Blood collection centers follow infection control standards put forth by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

If you cannot donate, consider volunteer opportunities to help blood collections in your community. Financial support is also needed.

According to givingblood.org, 4.5 million Americans need a blood transfusion each year, 43,000 pints of donated blood is used each day in the United States and Canada, and someone needs blood every two seconds. In the United States, 37% of the population is eligible to donate blood, but less than 10% do annually. That number needs to change. Lives depend on it.

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