The American Red Cross has declared its first ever national blood crisis.
Hospitals in the Portland area struggled with blood shortages before the first case of COVID-19 struck the region, according to Dr. Rachel Cook, the quality director of the bone marrow and stem cell transplant program at Oregon Health & Science University.
Now, two years into the pandemic, hospitals in the region are facing the worst blood shortage they’ve seen in over a decade.
Hospitals now have to prioritize their limited supply of blood and platelets to those who are actively bleeding, or undergoing emergency surgeries.
Cook says patients with Leukemia, experiencing shortness of breath or bruising, have to wait.
“Because blood is so scarce, we are also having to delay some major surgeries,” Cook said. “I can’t imagine the distress patients must feel when told their surgery or procedure has been postponed. It’s heartbreaking.”
According to the Red Cross, the decline in donations coincided with the outbreak of the delta variant of COVID-19. With omicron on its tail, blood drives are being cancelled and there have been staffing shortages.
According to Angel Montes, the regional donor services executive for the Red Cross based in Portland, recent severe weather in Oregon and Washington has caused over 1,000 cancelled appointments. He says nationally the Red Cross has seen a 10% decrease in donations during the pandemic.
The Red Cross is asking people willing to donate blood to sign up online or call 1-800-REDCROSS.
People who come in to donate until Jan. 31 will be entered to win two tickets to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles, round-trip airfare, three nights of lodging and a $500 gift card for expenses.
“We’re facing an unprecedented time where we need blood donors to sign up.” Montes said, “Help us pass this difficult time.”