National blood shortage hits the Tristate

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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – The blood supply shortage that has impacted the nation is now impacting parts of the Tristate, including Deaconess Health. To put the shortage in perspective, health officials ideally want to have a blood supply of 5 to 7 days on hand. Currently, the supply is only one day, and the fear is that we may be one traumatic event away from conditions going from bad to worse.

Doctor Brennan Fitzpatrick, Chief Medical Officer at the Women’s Hospital, explains, “We have a trauma center, we have a women’s hospital, which is a perinatal center. We have a number of patients that certainly are at risk for significant bleeding issues, and having blood products on-hand can really reduce the risk of significant complications and poor outcomes.”

The supply is currently so low that some hospitals and trauma centers are operating one donation drive at a time to keep fully stocked, a wake-up call according to Deaconess Health System President Dr. James Porter.

“Literally, we are one blood drive to the next of being able to keep up with the demand,” explains Dr. Porter. “Which just emphasizes that every blood drive that’s out there right now needs to be full, from the moment it starts to the moment it ends.”

Should blood supply levels be depleted, it could mean a temporary hold on common procedures such as open-heart surgery. Some doctors would also be forced into making decisions on which patients are more critical than others to determine who receives a blood transfusion and who would not. While that is not currently happening in our area, some local protocols have been adjusted due to the shortage.

“We have a restrictive transfusion protocol, and we’ve had that in place for many years, actually, but we’ve had to make it even more strict than normal,” says Dr. Gina Huhnke, Regional Medical Director of Emergency Medicine. “And we’ve already tried to ween down the number of units we keep in our massive transfusion box.”

The key to working out of this shortage is for donors to fill up blood drives across the region. Theo Boots, the Executive Director of the Southwest Indiana chapter of the American Red Cross, says it is critical that we get our blood supply to levels that it needs to be.

“There are blood drives that are coming up. And in some areas, there could be an opening. So look for the next available opening for you, make that appointment, because it’s going to be weeks and months that we’re going to need to continue, and ongoing.”

If you are interested in donating blood, or to check on upcoming blood drives in your area, simply click here and search using your zip code to find a donation opportunity near you.

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