Critical blood shortage has doctors pleading for donations

Blood shortage prompts plea for donations

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Summer is here and the supply is low, and doctors and health officials want people to know that their blood is needed.

The shelves inside the blood bank at University Medical Center are a little too bare for comfort.

"Actually, all types are needed right now," said Dr. Mandy Flannery O'Leary.

O'Leary works with UMC and the Blood Center of New Orleans. She said nationally, a three- to four-day supply of blood is normal. But right now, there's only enough nationwide to last a day.

"Which is bad for our local area, too, because when we are not able to recruit donors or have as many people donate blood, we're not able to import from other areas of the country either because they're facing shortages, as well," O'Leary said.

Specific types, like O positive, are at critically low levels. The shortage here is a problem several months in the making. Leaders at the blood bank said the spring flooding in Tangipahoa and Washington parishes and tornados in LaPlace all depleted the local supply.

And they say crime doesn't help because it requires blood for emergency care.

"We are actually not at the point quite yet, but I've been considering having to cancel elective cases, elective surgical procedures in some cases," O'Leary said. "And sometime we have to do that to make sure we have enough blood available in emergency situations."

And during hurricane season, that's cause for concern. Leaders say during the summer months, the usual donors - especially young people - are off school and out of town.

So the blood center wants to remind people to donate blood, which is a relatively short and painless process.

"It takes about a half an hour," O'Leary said. "You come in, you take some survey information to make sure you're eligible to donate. Then, if you are, we do a little finger stick to make sure your iron levels are where they need to be, then we take a unit of blood."

It's a small amount that could make a huge difference.

To find where you can donate, click here.