DC-area blood services issue critical alert – donors are needed

With a holiday weekend looming and Hurricane Ida disruptions growing, D.C.-area blood banks are issuing a critical alert about the need for donors.

“We have approximately 30% of what is needed,” said Heather Wade, of Inova Blood Donor Services. “We are short 70%.”

From traumas to cancer patients to emergency heart surgeries, hospitals around the area are full of patients, and Wade said one in seven will require at least one blood transfusion during their stay.

“We’re short every blood type, and it could impact patient care across our region. And we are not alone,” she said.

D.C.-area hospitals are served by both Inova Blood Donor Services and the American Red Cross, which also is experiencing shortages.

“The summer months are always tough,” said Ashely Jenyan, of the American Red Cross National Capital & Greater Chesapeake Region. “But when large-scale disasters strike, like Hurricane Ida and the California wildfires, the blood supply can be impacted nationwide. It is imperative those eligible to donate make a commitment to give blood now, and continue to give blood regularly.”

Wade, of Inova Blood Donor Services, said the shortage was a nationwide one, and it started early this year, “when [an] increased number of patients with extreme medical conditions started coming back to hospitals, [and] when the donors began not showing for their appointments or not even scheduling appointments,” Wade said.

“It really does take a community to save a community and we are heading into a holiday weekend, the last summer hurrah. And we want to be able to help those that come in to seek treatment, whether it’s a trauma emergency, or if it is a scheduled medical treatment. We want to be able to have a sufficient supply on the shelf to help every patient that needs a critical blood transfusion,” Wade said.

Hurricane Ida already is impacting the blood supply in Louisiana. Collections were suspended last Saturday and won’t resume until power is restored.

“They are going to rely on us and other agencies across the nation to help them sustain their patient care,” Wade said. “Sixty minutes of your time is all it takes to save three lives. We encourage you to make an appointment and take that time to give the gift of life.”

You can find American Red Cross donation locations online or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Locations for Inova Blood Donor Services can be found online or by calling 1-866-BLOODSAVES (1-866-256-6372).

Wade said there are 4.5 million potential donors in the D.C. area, and just 200 to 225 new donors a day would have a significant impact.

“You wouldn’t hear words like ‘urgent,’ ‘critical,’ ‘immediate shortage,’ ‘crucial’ — those words could go away.”

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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