Help save lives: Red Cross declares national blood crisis

Drew Butler
The Daily Ardmoreite
Whole Blood donor Ian Bumpas squeezes a rubber ball to help increase blood circulation while donating.

The American Red Cross is currently facing a national blood crisis with the worst blood shortage in over a decade. According to a press release from Tuesday, the organization has had a less than one-day supply of critical blood types and has had to limit blood product distributions to some hospital. At times, as much as 25% of hospital blood needs are not being met.

Matt Trotter, regional communications director with the American Red Cross, helped put the situation in perspective.

"This is the first time that the Red Cross has declared a national blood crisis, so that gives you an overall picture of what the blood supply is," Trotter said. "More locally here in Oklahoma, what we're seeing is collections as much as 25% lower than what we expect, and that's certainly straining the supplies for the hospitals that we provide blood to."

Trotter said one of the biggest issues causing the crisis is the ongoing pandemic which is affecting both donors and workers.

"Not only do we have to deal with blood donors who may not be well enough to come donate or who are a bit weary of COVID and don't want to go out," Trotter said. "We also have to deal with our staff members getting sick and not having to quarantine."

Here locally, the best way to donate blood is to get in touch with the Ardmore branch of the Oklahoma Blood Institute. People can set appointments by calling the office at 580-226-2220, or by visiting the website at www.obi.org. By clicking "Give Blood" from the top banner, visitors are directed to a page where they can input their zip code to find available appointments at the donor center or a list of upcoming blood drives in the area.

"The need for blood is not going to go away, and it's going to take all of us to manage the issues related to the pandemic and help with the blood supply," Trotter said.

For a variety of reasons, some people may not be able to give blood, but they still want to help. Even those who do give blood may want to help in additional ways. Trotter said the Red Cross is always looking for volunteers and even paid employees.

"We need volunteers to help our blood drives keep running," he said. We need blood ambassadors and medical screeners. We need transportation specialists that drive blood to the hospitals that need it. We also need more paid phlebotomists on staff, and we offer on the job training. So if you're looking for work and want to help out you can always become aa Red Cross phlebotomist and help out that way."