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Red Cross declares first nationwide blood crisis, compounded in NW by recent storms

(Update: Adding video, comments from Red Cross volunteer, regional executive, OHSU doctor)

Less than one-day supply; doctors forced to make difficult choices

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The American Red Cross declared the first-ever nationwide blood crisis Tuesday, and it's being felt in Central Oregon.

The Red Cross was already bombarded by COVID. Now, in the Northwest, the recent severe weather is making things even harder.

For Laura Weberling’s son, Hans, blood transfusions helped keep him alive.

“Sometimes we could just tell when he was in need of transfusion,” she said. “If he needed red blood cells, his whole body would just be kind of limp and lifeless.”

Sadly, Hans lost his battle with neuroblastoma in 2012. But the fight inspired his mother to join the Red Cross in Portland.

“I wanted to do something in service to his fight,” Weberling said.

And they need help now more than ever.

Angel Montes, regional donor services executive with the Red Cross, told reporters Tuesday: “The American Red Cross is facing a national blood crisis. It’s being deemed as the worst blood crisis in over a decade.”

Montez said it’s the first time they’ve ever declared a national blood crisis.

“I’ve been with this organization for 18 years, and I haven’t seen it this bad,” he said.

The Red Cross has seen a 10 percent decline in blood donations since the start of the pandemic. That’s made for tough decisions at hospitals like Oregon Health and Science University.

Dr. Rachel Cook, a member of OHSU’s blood supply task force, said: “We now had to prioritize our limited supply for those who need it most.”

The Red Cross is especially looking for those with Type O blood, the universal donor.

They've implemented numerous safety precautions, including masking and vaccination of their staff.

As of Tuesday morning, 60 percent of donation appointments in the Red Cross Cascades Region were open.

Also, anyone who donates blood before the end of the month will be entered to win a free trip to the Super Bowl.

Here's the rest of a news release from the Cascade Red Cross Region outlining the critical situation:

Blood and platelet donations are critically needed to help prevent further delays in vital medical treatments, and donors of all blood types – especially type O − are urged to make an appointment now to give in the weeks ahead.

In recent weeks, the Red Cross had less than a one-day supply of critical blood types and has had to limit blood product distributions to hospitals. At times, as much as one-quarter of hospital blood needs are not being met.

Pandemic challenges

The Red Cross continues to confront relentless challenges due to COVID-19, including about a 10% overall decline in the number of people donating blood as well as ongoing blood drive cancellations and staffing limitations. Additionally, the pandemic has contributed to a 62% drop in blood drives at schools and colleges.

“Winter weather across the country and the recent surge of COVID-19 cases are compounding the already-dire situation facing the blood supply,” said Dr. Baia Lasky, medical director for the Red Cross. “Please, if you are eligible, make an appointment to give blood or platelets in the days and weeks ahead to ensure no patient is forced to wait for critical care.”

Over the next month, about 60 percent of donation appointments remain unfilled in the Cascade Red Cross Region. Make an appointment to give blood or platelets as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). 

The Red Cross and the NFL are partnering this January, during National Blood Donor Month, to urge individuals to give blood or platelets and help tackle the national blood shortage. Those who come to give blood, platelets or plasma in January will automatically be entered for a chance to win a getaway to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles. As an extra thank-you from the Red Cross, those who come to donate will also be automatically entered to win a home theater package and a $500 e-gift card. Terms apply; visit RedCrossBlood.org/SuperBowl for more information.

Who donations help

For Lara Weberling, a Red Cross Donor Recruitment Representative from Portland, getting more blood donors through the door is personal. Lara lost her son, Hans, to the pediatric cancer neuroblastoma in 2012. During his 6-year battle with the disease, he received many blood transfusions and blood-related products including stem cell transplants with maintenance therapy.

Hans was 9 when he lost his battle with cancer. His mother, however, is still fighting. Lara, through her job with the Red Cross, works to get more blood donations so that kids like Hans who rely on donors can get the treatment they need.

“It’s amazing,” said Lara. “I get to help kids like Hans every day.” 

Volunteers needed

In addition to blood donors, the Red Cross also needs the help of volunteers to support critical blood collections across the country. Blood drive volunteers play an important role by greeting, registering, answering questions and providing information to blood donors throughout the donation process. Blood transportation specialists – another volunteer opportunity − provide a critical link between blood donors and blood recipients by delivering blood to hospitals in communities across the country. To volunteer to support Red Cross blood collections, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.

Blood drive safety 

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including face masks for donors and staff, regardless of vaccination status – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive. 

Save time during donation

Donors can also save up to 15 minutes at the blood drive by completing a RapidPass®. With RapidPass®, donors complete the pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of donation, from a mobile device or computer. To complete a RapidPass®, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Red Cross Blood Donor App.

To donate blood, individuals need to bring a blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification that are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also must meet certain height and weight requirements.

Health insights for donors 

At a time when health information has never been more important, the Red Cross is screening all blood, platelet and plasma donations from self-identified African American donors for the sickle cell trait. This additional screening will provide Black donors with an additional health insight and help the Red Cross identify compatible blood types more quickly to help patients with sickle cell disease who require trait-negative blood. Blood transfusion is an essential treatment for those with sickle cell disease, and blood donations from individuals of the same race, ethnicity and blood type have a unique ability to help patients fighting sickle cell disease.    

Donors can expect to receive sickle cell trait screening results, if applicable, within one to two weeks through the Red Cross Blood Donor App and the online donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org.  

About the American Red Cross

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.  

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Terms and conditions apply. Additional information and details are available at RedCrossBlood.org/SuperBowl.

Author Profile Photo

Jack Hirsh

Jack Hirsh is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jack here.

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Comments

11 Comments

  1. It’s a well known fact that many humans don’t have hearts, nor blood, so this whole blood shortage thing is simply yet another Government attempt to simply put a needle in your arm.

  2. You’ve identified the glaring omission in the rah rah donate blood article. Much ado about filters for sickle cell and rightly so of course but not a peep about differentiating blood with or with out vaxx poison. Let’s just pretend there’s no controversy for the last 2 years and if some crybabies complain too bad lucky they got any even if tainted. I’m willing to hear differently to y’all more in the know on the subject.

  3. Did anyone read into this that its okay to go to the Super Bowl, but our hospitals locally are “overwhelmed” with Covid and we need to take precautions… So which is it? Aren’t we in a Crisis here in Oregon? I believe that local schools are limiting the numbers of family who can watch sports now and Bend/Lapine schools board released the possibility of back to online learning. So which is it? Is a large gathering for the Super Bowl okay and not a spreader event, but local school children and sports events are?
    Seems to me the left handed politics don’t pause long enough to realize their own policies are misguided and absolutely ridiculous.

  4. So let’s hope none of you are involved in a vehicular incident (through no fault of your own) where you require hospitalization. Or suddenly have some other medical issue that requires medical assistance and/ or a transfusion.

    As for this being a left leaning issue ~ get a freaking clue.

    People have lost their homes due to flooding ~ and other natural weather events and all some of you can claim is it’s political! I’m sure if you had the capability of doing a bit of research you’d find that Donny Boy has some serious calamities during his four years.

    1. Right now I feel sorry for anyone who needs St Charles assistance. They ONLY care about Covid. In fact a friend with a gapping wound in his head, which paramedics couldn’t get to stop bleeding was given a Covid test, outside the facility, prior to being allowed in. That’s how much our hospital cares. Just because we are upset about the Covid politics doesn’t mean we are “Trumpers” or that we don’t care about others going through hell right now. I cam calling a Spade a Spade. Politics are Covid kills. Politics state we need to isolate, wear masks, stay 6 feet apart, but the Super Bowl is so important that it goes on as usual and is used as an “incentive” to get people to go give blood. I think all of us can see the irony in that decision.

  5. I have always wondered why nobody, including the Red Cross pays for blood. It is not illegal to pay. I did some research and it appears it is primarily a moral issue; ‘blood money’. There is also a concern that people will lie about their health and history if they are compensated, and this has been shown to be somewhat true for plasma donors. I notice that they are offering a ‘chance’ to win a prize. I would donate if they paid me, say, $100, and I am sure that many more people would. I’m sure that many will judge me for my stance, but it is what it is.

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