Regional blood center reports critical shortage

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Phlebotomist Izzy Hernandez, in proper PPE (gloves, lab coat & mask), interacts with a blood donor Donna Pen at Texoma Regional Blood Center in December of 2020. Pen has donated a total of 17 gallons of blood at TRBC and is a dedicated donor. Pen is donating platelets which can be given every 28 days. Platelet transfusions are used for cancer, trauma, burn and surgery patients to assist with blood clotting and to stop internal and external bleeding. Platelets must be used within five days or they will expire. TRBC needs at least 4 platelet donors a day to meet the demand from local hospitals.

The Texoma Regional Blood Center is asking residents to give of themselves this holiday season. Representatives for the center said it is currently experiencing a shortage of blood supply and is in desperate need of donations.

This comes during a perfect storm that has led to an unprecedented need for blood along with dwindling donations, representatives said.

"It couldn't happen at a worse time because our supply has diminished. This time of year is always a slower time of the year in general due to winter-related illnesses, which is being compounded by COVID-19," said Melanie Robertson, donor recruiter for Texoma Regional Blood Center.

The blood center provides units for five hospitals — two of these hospitals have shown a heightened demand for blood due to an increasing number of critically ill patients.

"Any time you have more critical patients, you are going to need more blood," Robertson said.

On Tuesday, the two hospitals required 40 units of blood. In that same time, only six blood donations were made.

The problems at in Texoma are not unique to the region. Many blood centers across the country are experiencing similar shortages and the same increasing demand.

The one bag of O Negative blood on the shelf at the Texoma Regional Blood Center in 2016.

"All blood centers are experiencing these same usage versus donation issues. We were really lucky — we had several drives had had to be cancelled last week, but we were able to import some blood to help offset the donations we would have received."

The issue with cancelled drives has plagued centers throughout 2020. The drives that are held at schools and area businesses traditionally are a major source for the regional center, but the COVID-19 pandemic has led many to be cancelled.

Robertson said the number of donors is always a small group, but this has been exacerbated by the pandemic as many long-time donors have been unable to donate due to illness or quarantine. The winter months are also traditionally the slowest months for donations due to seasonal illnesses.

"Most people don't think about blood until you need it, or you see someone else who needs it," she said. "It is only then that people understand how vital donated blood is. It cannot be manufactured. There is no technological advancement to replace the need for blood."

Robertson also attributed the low number of donors to a change in culture and views on donations. In many cases, people simply do not have a good understanding of how vital donations are, she said.

"My grandparents always told me that donating blood was a civic duty to the same level of voting. It is your duty as an American," she said.

The Texoma Regional Blood Center is asking members of the public to give blood amid a critical, shortage compounded by critical need. A donor volunteers during a 2016 blood drive.