Red Cross pleads for more blood donations on heels of May shortfall

Red Cross asking for more blood donations on heels of May shortfall

Red Cross asking for more blood donations on heels of May shortfall

The American Red Cross is reporting a “concerning shortfall” in blood donations heading into summer.

“In May, the Red Cross collected 26,000 fewer donations than we planned, so that for us was a concerning shortfall,” said Sue Thesenga, regional communications director for the American Red Cross Minnesota and Dakotas Region.

The organization would like to collect 12,500 units of blood per day nationwide, so a shortfall of that size equates to about a two-day loss for the month of May.

“We don’t want to keep going in that direction. We want to reverse that,” Thesenga said.

In January 2022, the Red Cross declared its first-ever “blood crisis” and had to limit blood shipments to hospitals.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reported on hospitals receiving less than a quarter of the blood products they requested, which threatened patient care. Some hospitals in the metro had to cancel non-emergency surgeries due to the lack of blood.

“We are not in that emergency situation right now. We’re trying to prevent that,” Thesenga said. “We want to pivot away from getting into a critical need this summer.”

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS visited one of Allina Health’s blood banks, connected to Abbott Northwestern, on Wednesday.

The transfusion services laboratory receives blood products from the American Red Cross and Memorial Blood Centers, coordinating distribution to patients across the hospital system.

“Our blood supply is still not what it was pre-pandemic,” said Alana Sutherland, technical director for transfusion services at Allina Health. “People who come into our hospitals for open-heart surgery, car accidents, high-risk pregnancies, all those patients have the potential to need blood. They need it at very rapid paces and sometimes very large quantities.”

Sutherland said she would like to see a five-day supply of blood products on the shelves, but over the last few years, it has hovered around a three-day supply or less.

“Does it create a ripple effect? Absolutely. That means everybody goes on high alert,” Sutherland explained. “We really have to watch our supply in order to manage it so that patients have what they need. We are evaluating that every single morning before we even open the first OR suite.”

Sutherland said they have to work harder behind the scenes to strategically collect, manage and distribute blood products when they are not in ample supply.

She urges Minnesotans to step up and donate blood to help ease these concerns.

“Please donate. We need the units. We need the support. If it was your loved one sitting in one of our ICU units, would you want somebody to donate?” Sutherland said. “I would highly stress that donations are a gift that cost us nothing. You can give it for free. Why aren’t we?”

For World Blood Donor Day on Wednesday, the American Red Cross also hoped to compel Minnesotans to donate over the summer, a time when donations tend to decline.

“I think I’m doing my little part,” said Victor Wood, who donated blood alongside his fiancée, who was a first-time donor. “I think that there’s somebody somewhere that’s benefiting solely because of me.”

Thesenga added, “The need for blood is constant. In fact, every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood. It doesn’t cost you a dime and only takes about an hour out of your day. This blood can save lives.”

The American Red Cross is offering incentives for blood donations for the rest of the month. Each blood donor in June will receive a $10 gift card and be entered to win a backyard theater package worth almost $3,000.