The Arkansas Blood Institute reports that the nationwide blood shortage has reached Arkansas as blood donations are at emergency low levels. The local blood supply is currently at a one- to two-day supply instead of the ideal four- to five-day supply threshold that ABI feels comfortable having.
“We’ve seen across the country that everyone has been experiencing shortages and donations for blood as things have begun to shift back to normal coming out of COVID-19,” ABI Executive Director Mario Sedlock said. “We’ve been holding our own pretty well up until the last month or so when life started to pick back up. Our hospital demand [for blood] is higher than we’ve seen it in the past. During the summer months, we need to be prepared for the typical challenges we face.”
Sedlock noted that people are scheduling surgeries during the summer that they had put off during the pandemic, and the summer has seen an increase in accidents that require transfusions.
“A phenomenon we’re seeing right now is that people are traveling more frequently since they were not able to for an entire year, so they aren’t necessarily making time to donate. There’s a challenge for supply and demand that we’re facing.”
The next few weeks are a critical period as the need for blood is high but the supply levels are low, he added. Nationwide shortages have exhausted the safety net provided by sharing units between blood centers. Donated blood is used frequently to fight cancer, survive trauma and heal after childbirth.
“If Arkansans don’t hear the call and regain their pre-pandemic levels of generosity, we’re facing
serious damage to the transfusion care that our hospital partners normally provide,” Dr. John Armitage, ABI’s president and CEO, said. “We keep thinking that COVID-related problems can’t get worse, but we now have the worst stock levels I have seen in my 26 years of blood banking. We need the Arkansas standard to gear up into overdrive to carry us out of the sputtering pattern of repeated crises that is starting to emerge post-COVID. We’re pleading with our past, present and future donors to help now.”
The ideal blood donor is 16 years or older or 15 with parental permission, weighs at least 125 pounds and is healthy. All blood types are needed currently as the situation is critical.
“The demand for blood has really picked up, and we need donors every day. Blood is a perishable product with a shelf life of only 42 days. We have to have a continuous supply of blood for seven days a week, 365 days a year,” Sedlock said.
Donors can find donation centers and blood drives through the Arkansas Blood Institute website.