FORT SMITH, Ark. — Across the nation, the American Red Cross is facing a critical blood supply shortage.
For the first time ever, the organization has declared the shortage a crisis as supply levels fall to the lowest they have been in over a decade.
To put it into context, the American Red Cross says it typically has a blood supply of five days. Right now, there is less than a one-day supply available.
Supplying around 40% of the nation's hospitals, Julie Brown, Executive Director for Northwest Arkansas American Red Cross says the short supply means, “doctors really have to start to assess what patients need that blood supply.”
With dangerously low blood supply levels, doctors are being forced to make tough decisions on which patients need a blood transfusion and those who can wait. As a result, some elective surgeries are being postponed and emergency patients or those needing blood to help with a medical condition are being impacted.
At the Arkansas Blood Institute in Fort Smith, Executive Director, Danny Cervantes says the crisis hasn’t hit at home, but it’s not far behind.
“Our models are showing that it’s a steep, steep, decline on what we’re going to have compared to what the hospitals are going to need,” Cervantes said. “This time next week we could be – actually by the end of this week, we could be in trouble.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a major factor leading to the blood supply crisis. Both The American Red Cross and the Arkansas Blood Institute say as a result of the pandemic, they have witnessed staff shortages and an increase in the number of appointment cancellations.
“COVID has definitely impacted our staffing, it’s impacted the available donor pool,” Brown said.
“I had two schools that contacted me, that are going tomorrow, that have canceled on us and I’ve already had to cancel two blood drives since Friday," Cervantes said, echoing Brown's statement.
Right now, all blood donations are in need, with type O negative in the highest of demand given its unique universal ability to be received.
If you have had coronavirus, you are still encouraged to donate. Early on during the pandemic if you had a positive result and had not yet received your vaccination, you met the qualifications to be a convalescent plasma donor.
The Arkansas Blood Institute now says anyone who tested positive and those who have received a vaccine can donate for convalescent plasma.
The American Red Cross says it no longer takes convalescent plasma donations, but still encourages anyone who has tested positive for COVID or received a vaccine to donate. The only request for both the American Red Cross and the Arkansas Blood Institute is that you only donate once you are symptom-free for at least 72 hours. If you feel under the weather, please stay home.
A simple blood donation can help up to three people. Most donations last less than half an hour and you are encouraged to go online to schedule an appointment or find a blood drive near you.
If you are interested in hosting a blood drive, there are tools to get you started. The Arkansas Blood Institute says they will help you host a blood drive for as little as 10 people.
The next blood drive for the Arkansas Blood Institute will take place on Wednesday, Jan. 12, in Fort Smith at Central Mall from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.