SANDY — The American Red Cross is reporting it had a national shortage of blood this month, largely in part due to canceled blood drives from severe winter weather and the partial federal government shutdown.
Nationwide, more than 4,600 Red Cross donations went uncollected as a result of the canceled blood drives, where 80 percent of the organization's donations come from.
The Lewis and Clark Blood Services Region, which includes Utah, was short approximately 1,700 donations of what's needed to maintain the minimum blood supply, according to Samantha Pollard, Red Cross communications director.
About 670 donations are needed daily for the region, which also includes Idaho, Montana and Las Vegas.
Local blood centers are also struggling to keep donation numbers up.
Lance Bradley, spokesperson for Utah's ARUP Blood Services, said in addition to decreased donor numbers, there has also been an increase in patients who need blood.
The center is the sole blood provider for all University of Utah hospitals and Primary Children's Hospital, and it saw record-high numbers of patients in need of blood transfusions this month.
Usually the center provides blood to about 50 to 55 patients per day, whereas in December and January those averages jumped to 65 to 75 daily, with a high of 81 in one day earlier this month — a number never before seen at the center.
"If you have a common blood type, you are greatly needed right now," he said.
The center had a shortage of Type O-positive and O-negative blood types as of Tuesday, Bradley said. ARUP provides 25 percent of the state's blood transfusions and Red Cross provides the remaining 75 percent. However, all blood donations at ARUP are used locally at the hospitals the center serves, whereas blood donated through the Red Cross can be used out of state.
Since Sunday, two pediatric burn patients required a total of 19 units of blood, a heart transplant patient received a transfusion of 21 units and a liver transplant patient was transfused 17 units. Each unit represents one blood donor, and all the patients were treated at hospitals where ARUP is the sole blood provider.
"Four to six dozen people locally are going through the worst experience of their life," Bradley said. "It's 30 minutes of your time to donate."3 comments on this story
Leslie Howlett, a registered nurse who works for Mountain Point Medical Center in Lehi, took about a half hour Tuesday to donate blood at the ARUP center in Sandy.
"It's one quick poke, and compared to people who need it, one quick poke isn't a big deal," she said.
Howlett works on a nonemergency floor of the hospital but said she tranfuses blood to patients several times a month.
While Howlett said she understands some people are afraid of needles, she said it's important for those who are eligible to try and donate.
"Hopefully people who are resistant to it come in," Howlett said. "They might be recipients one day."