News

Ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has devastating impact on blood supply

As more than half of all blood drives continue to be cancelled because of COVID-19 restrictions, the pandemic has had a devastating impact on the community blood supply, limiting the number of units available to area hospitals. Only about 50% of the type O blood ordered by hospitals can be provided immediately, a critical situation for local trauma centers which use type O blood in emergency situations, reports the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center. The center needs 500 blood donations a day to meet the needs of hospital patients in the region.

“All our patients are competing for blood,” said Dr. Leslie Greebon, Medical Director of Transfusion Services at University Health. “We have had to cancel some blood treatments or delay them until blood becomes available. If this becomes more severe, we would have to cancel procedures or have medical/trauma diversion to other hospitals. We would not be able to accept more patients but would need to focus on those already within our walls.”

“How will this affect you and your family?” said Lillian Liao, MD, MPH FACS Pediatric Trauma Medical Director, University Hospital. “It won’t unless someone you know is injured and requires immediate blood transfusions to save their life. It could be a family injured in a car crash, someone injured at the ranch riding an ATV, a child burned by a campfire, an elderly person whose blood vessel ruptures, or victims of a mass shooting or other large casualty event. We need everyone’s help. Donate blood if you can, to save lives.”

In a normal year, 70% of the blood collected by the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center comes from community blood drives, but more than 1,000 drives have been cancelled since the pandemic began. Blood collections typically increase during the fall thanks to high school and college drives, but the negative trend continues, with less than half the usual drives scheduled through the end of the year.

The COVID-19 devastating impact on community blood supply:

  • More than 7,500 blood donations were lost over the summer
  • More than 3,500 donations will be lost this month.
  • More than 8,500 donations will be lost this fall.

Amount of blood needed for crucial surgeries:

  • The average liver transplant requires 8-16 units of blood.
  • The average car accident trauma victim requires 8-10 units of blood.
  • The average open-heart surgery patient requires 4 units of blood.

Donors can call 210-731-5590 or visit SouthTexasBlood.org to make an appointment at one of the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center’s seven donor rooms or to locate a blood drive.

Blood donors also can give at the University Hospital Blood Donor Room, 4502 Medical Drive. To schedule an appointment with University Hospital, call 210-358-2812 or visit DonateBloodToday.com.

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