Arizona faces blood shortages, local donors needed July 8

Patient transfusion rates have surged 13 percent above normal levels creating a blood donation crisis in the U.S., according to United Blood Services. Photo/Adobe stock

Patient transfusion rates have surged 13 percent above normal levels creating a blood donation crisis in the U.S., according to United Blood Services. Photo/Adobe stock

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - One hour. That's all the time it takes to donate a pint of blood.

The United Blood Services (UBS) is hosting a blood drive July 8 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Grand Canyon Recreation Center.

According to UBS, patient transfusions rates have surged 13 percent above normal levels recently creating a blood donation crisis across the country.

This, combined with plummeting donations since the Memorial Day holiday has created an extra strain on an already lean blood supply, a strain which is expected to last throughout the summer.

"I've worked for United Blood Services for five years and the five years prior to that I hosted blood drives at my previous work place," UBS Senior Donor Recruitment Representative Carina Fors said. "We've never seen it this bad where all blood types are in need."

On June 7, UBS issued a critical appeal for blood donors but only saw a 5 percent increase in the blood inventory.

According to Fors, the agency is continuing their urgent push for donors in hopes of increasing the supply.

"The Independence Day holiday is coming up and that is one of the highest usage times," Fors said. "Typically we need 500 blood donations each day but during this two-week time period it goes up to about 600 blood donations daily."

According to Fors, reserves of blood have depleted to 42 percent below required levels, leaving only a one-and-a-half-day supply on the shelves. Since it takes 24 to 36 hours to test and process each donation before it can be released for a patient, blood is being transfused as fast as UBS can provide it to hospitals.

UBS is the non-profit community blood provider that supplies 100 percent of the transfusion needs for every hospital in 11 of 15 Arizona counties, including Coconino, Yavapai, Navajo, Gila, Apache and Maricopa counties.

UBS has added blood drives throughout Northern Arizona to accommodate space for additional donors.

According to the American Red Cross, 38 percent of the population is eligible to donate but less than 10 percent actually do.

"In Arizona, sadly, only three percent donate," Fors said. "We have very low donor participation but we have pretty high usage."

Fors said she thinks the low donation percentage is because of a lack of understanding of the need.

"A lot of people just don't put thought into where blood for hospital patients come from," she said.

According to UBS, donating blood is a safe process. A sterile needle is used only once for each donor and then discarded.

Blood donation is a simple four-step process which includes registration, medical history and mini-physical, donation and refreshments. A mini-physical includes checking the donor's temperature, blood pressure, pulse and hemoglobin to ensure it is safe for the donor to give blood.

The actual blood donation typically takes less than 10-12 minutes. The entire process, from the time a donor arrives to the time they leave, takes about an hour and 15 minutes.

The average adult has about 10 pints of blood in his body. Roughly 1 pint is given during a donation. A healthy donor may donate red blood cells every 56 days, or double red cells every 112 days. A healthy donor may donate platelets as few as seven days apart, but a maximum of 24 times a year.

All donated blood is tested for HIV, hepatitis B and C, syphilis and other infectious diseases before it can be released to hospitals.

Information a donor gives to UBS during the donation process is confidential. It may not be released without permission except as directed by law.

According to UBS, out-of-state resources to meet local patient blood needs have been exhausted since blood centers across the country are still recovering from the decline in donations over the Memorial Day holiday.

"(The percent of the population eligible to donate) has decreased a bit with this Zika virus crises we are going through as well," Fors said.

According to Red Cross every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood. Approximately 36,000 unites of red blood cells are needed every day in the United States. A single car accident victim can need 100 units of blood. More than 1.68 million people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2016. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.

"There is a little 5-year-old girl in Flagstaff that is afflicted with a disease known as Diamond Blackfan Anemia," Fors said. "...she needs a blood transfusion every five weeks. She's only five years old and she up to like 51 blood transfusions. It's just crazy to here of a child going through this."

Fors said most of Arizona blood donations come from high school and college students.

"Arizona has a very good and very supportive high school blood drive program," Fors said. "We get a terrific response from high school blood drives. They keep the blood supply going but when they're out for the summer we take a huge hit with that as well."

Fors said Type O blood is typically the most needed blood type, but all blood types are needed during the current crisis.

The blood drive will be at the Grand Canyon Rec Center from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the multi-purpose room July 8. More information is available from the Rec Center at (928) 638-3389 or visit Blood Hero(sponsor code: grandcyn).

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