To ease severe blood shortage, Red Cross asks Type O donors to step up

Local News

Hospitals in Vermont and around the country are experiencing a severe shortage of blood.

The American Red Cross is encouraging donors of all blood types to step up, especially if you have Type O. Known as the “universal blood type,” Type O is most in demand as it can be given safely to anyone. But as people make summer plans, donations are down and the Red Cross is asking for help.  

“At the Red Cross, we like to have a five-day supply on hand of all blood types, and in recent weeks we’ve been operating with a half-day supply of Type O,” said Jennifer Costa, Regional Communications Director for the American Red Cross of Northern New England.

The Decatur family all have Type O blood and they plan to roll up their sleeves this week. Jacob Decatur is a regular at the Red Cross and has donated a total of 16 units, or two gallons, of Type O. 

“Knowing that there’s a special need for it made me want to come in and donate even more,” he said.

Costa says this is the second time since the pandemic began that the Red Cross is seeing a blood shortage. A year ago, blood drives shut down.  Now, hospitals are using up their supplies on an increase in emergency room visits and elective surgeries

“We are seeing an unprecedented number of trauma cases come through hospital doors,” Costa said.

Unlike other hospitals in the region, the University of Vermont Medical Center says so far they haven’t had to delay surgeries. The same is true for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

“To stay ahead of this national issue, we have implemented temporary conservation methods as well as increased blood collections from our own blood donor program at DHMC,” the hospital said in a statement.

Costa said most people take blood supplies for granted and don’t think about whether there is enough until they need it.

“I think it’s something we just assume like medication, we’ll go to the hospital and we’ll get it if we need it,” she said. “But the reality is the only source of blood are healthy human donors.”

Costa said to meet hospital demand, the state needs to collect 80 pints of blood every day. That’s 560 different Vermonters every week willing to roll up their sleeves.

“Sometimes people have said to me, the Red Cross is always saying that they need blood,” Costa said. “That’s true. We do. Because it is this perishable product and every two seconds in the US, someone needs blood.”

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