‘Unprecedented’ shortage of blood sends some hospitals into crisis mode

Right now, hospitals need every drop of blood they can get.

Supply levels have not been this low in 30 to 40 years, a spokesperson for the Greater Atlanta American Red Cross said.

The problem: a surge in demand has coincided with a shortage of donations. 

That has put some patients in a life-or-death situation. 

"If the hospital doesn’t have enough blood, they have to make some pretty scary decisions," said Emily Clay with the Red Cross. "At some point they have to choose who they are going to give blood to and if they don’t have enough blood, some people might ultimately die, they might not get the blood they need."

The end of the pandemic has become a perfect storm -- causing a crisis.

"With travel beginning again, trauma goes up, with car accidents, elective surgeries are coming back and organ transplants are coming back so it’s just a lot of things at once right now," Clay said. 

At the Red Cross’ blood donation center in Midtown, Kendall Hamilton made his first donation Friday since the beginning of the pandemic. 

"A lot of people like myself have kept from donating blood over the last year," Hamilton said. "I think now is a really good opportunity for people to come out and donate again if they can."

Clay said that with demand up and donations down, blood supplies are actually worse now than they were in the middle of the lockdown. 

In Atlanta -- one of the many factors -- the surge in gun violence putting a strain on the blood supply in trauma centers. 

"We can’t manufacture it so it’s not something we can go into the lab and create," she said. "We have to rely on the generosity from our donors to donate blood."

Other than a little dizziness and the pinch of the needle going in -- Hamilton says producing that bag of blood that could save a life is virtually painless.

"There’s been times in which I got a little lightheaded," the Decatur man said. "I don’t let that discourage me and I just keep on coming back."

The American Red Cross said the shortage is across the board, but in particular they are in desperate need of type "o" blood. Right now, they only have a half day’s supply.

To learn how you can donate, log on to redcrossblood.org and enter your zip code to find a blood drive near you.

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