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Rochester Regional Health, Red Cross in need of blood donors
Rochester Regional Health (which includes the GLOW counties) and the Red Cross are sounding the alarm this summer for blood donors — donors of any blood type, but certainly Type O blood.
“There is a severe shortage of all blood types. We’re feeling it particularly with Type O blood ...” said Dr. Roberto Vargas, Rochester Regional Health System associate chair, labs & pathology and director of the Rochester General Hospital Blood Bank. Euthanization has increased. We’re doing more procedures, more surgeries, there’s more trauma,” he told the media Tuesday. “Emergency rooms are very, very, very busy. We’re using a lot of blood.”
“We are partnering with the Red Cross to make sure we get the word out so we can increase the number of donations. That’s what the goal here is,” Vargas said. “Donations quite literally save lives and they typically drop during the summer months. This particular summer is even worse than normal. Because of that, we really want to invite people who qualify to donate to do so. Contact the Red Cross and go and give blood and become a person who saves lives and really does something for the community.”
The American Red Cross Western New York Region says donors are urged to make an appointment to give as soon as possible. The Red Cross has seen demand from trauma centers climb by 10% in 2021, compared to 2019 − more than five times the growth of other facilities that provide blood transfusions. To schedule an appointment to give blood, use the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.
In addition to trauma needs, there is a great hospital demand for blood as people who deferred care during the height of the pandemic present with more advanced disease progression, requiring increased blood transfusions, the Red Cross said in a pres release. Over the last three months, the Red Cross has distributed about 75,000 more blood products than expected to meet these needs. As a result of this shortage, some hospitals are being forced to slow the pace of elective surgeries until the blood supply stabilizes. Blood is perishable and cannot be stockpiled, so it must constantly be replenished by generous blood donors, the Red Cross said.
In most cases, those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine can donate. However, knowing the name of the manufacturer of the vaccine they received is important in determining donation eligibility. As a thank-you, the Red Cross said, those who come to give through June 30 will receive a $5 Amazon.com Gift Card via email, courtesy of Amazon. Restrictions apply. Additional information and details are available at RedCrossBlood.org/Together. How important is Type O in an emergency with a patient when a hospital doesn’t know the patient’s blood type?
“In urgent situations, you can give O blood to any of the other blood types. If you’re Type O, you can only receive O blood. O is a common blood type in the general population, but it’s even higher in Hispanics and African American populations,” Vargas said. “It’s a band-aid. It’s extremely important that we get more of this and it becomes the backbone of our supply, what we’d like to keep in reserve for massive transfusion protocols, for trauma, for all kinds of emergencies.”
The basic qualifiers for donors are age, weight and whether the person is healthy, Vargas said.
“You have to be at least 17 — 16-year-olds can donate with consent — weigh at least 110 pounds and be healthy. For anything else, the best course of action is to contact the Red Cross. They will guide you through the screening questionnaire and basically set up an appointment to make things easy for you as a donor, assuming you qualify,” Vargas said. The doctor said RRH’s main supplier of Type O blood is the Red Cross.
“We do work with a couple of other suppliers as needed,” he said. “We have enough to take care of our patients today, but we like to keep a reserve. That is what we’ve seen decrease on a continuous basis for a couple of weeks now. It’s hard to say how many days on hand we have. It depends on who comes into the emergency room, what kind of patients we’re seeing, who ends up bleeding a lot,” he said. “All orders from the Red Cross are on medical approval, which basically means a medical director has to approve of deliveries to the hospitals. That typically only happens when the reserves are very low.” As to whether the shortage this summer can be blamed on COVID-19, Vargas said a lot of things are related to COVID. “We are seeing an increase in procedures that were delayed because of COVID. The old infrastructure of having these really big blood drives had to be adjusted. COVID’s certainly had an impact, especially as we start ramping up again in terms of elective procedures. We’re just decreasing in blood donations for a number of different reasons. Certainly, COVID made it worse,” he said. Vargas spoke as a husband, father and member of the community about the importance of giving blood. He said it’s because we look out for each other.
“When we donate blood, it’s an act of love. You’re donating blood for no other reason than to take care of others — in this particular case, people who are very sick, people who got hurt, people who have leukemia, lymphoma, people who need an organ transplant or were in a car accident. That is their moment of greatest need,” he said.