‘The need is dire’: Blood banks down to 1-day supply


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan blood banks say they are struggling to keep an adequate supply on hand, with reserves at historic lows.

At Versiti Blood Center on Fuller Avenue in Grand Rapids, a handful of donors dropped in to give blood Wednesday.

“Anytime I come here to give blood, my experience is awesome. They are very quick,” said Donita Coughlin, who donates several times a year. “This is just a little thing I can do and it doesn’t cost me any money.”

Despite generous people like Coughlin, Versiti says its shelves are virtually empty.

“Versiti has seen the lowest blood supply in the past decade. The need is dire. It’s dangerous right now,” Versiti Grand Rapids Vice President Dawn Kaiser said.

Versiti Blood Center is low on supply. (Jan. 12, 2022)

Kaiser says the organization has about a one-day supply of blood on hand currently. She says ideally, it should have five days.

“Patients could be at risk. Those who are suffering from trauma or cancer patients or people who need daily transfusions, they might not get what they need because we don’t have enough on the shelves,” Kaiser said.

The American Red Cross of West Michigan says it is struggling with the same problems, with less than one day’s blood supply on hand.

“Low seasonal blood supplies really aren’t uncommon but this time it’s a convergence of many forces: COVID and staffing issues and supply chain issues and the holidays. So that’s all come together, and we are down to one day of O (type blood) and platelets,” Executive Director for West Michigan Red Cross Breeze Ettl said.

Ettl says the Red Cross has been dealing with low donor turnout and school blood drive cancellations, too.

“Universities and high schools are huge donors and so our folks there haven’t been to school except virtually,” Ettl said.

The units of blood are often used for shooting victims, people receiving organ transplants and cancer patients among other emergencies. Blood banks say if the supply continues to dwindle, doctors could be forced to make hard decisions regarding which patients receive available units of blood.

“The challenge that we have right now is that the demand (for blood) is high because the demand for health care is high right now. We certainly are seeing across the board where hospitals are full,” Spectrum Health Chief Operating Officer Brian Brasser said.

But so far, he said, doctors haven’t gotten to a point where the blood shortage is impacting operations.

To drive more donations, blood banks are offering prizes and incentives. Versiti says all first-time donors will receive $25 gift cards. The Red Cross says anyone who donates in the month of January this year will automatically be entered for a chance to win a trip and tickets to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles, among other available prizes.

The organizations say the blood donations could be the difference between life and death for someone.

“It is a really, really important civic opportunity and civic responsibility and it could absolutely save lives,” Brasser said. “Whatever your blood type is, it will help.”

For more information on upcoming blood drives and donation sites, visit the Versiti or Red Cross websites.

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