Increasing demand for blood outpacing local collections

South Texas Blood & Tissue issues emergency appeal for donations to boost dangerously low inventories and meet growing patient needs
December 11, 2019
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Although the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center has collected 9% more blood during 2019 than in 2018, the rising demand for blood is exceeding collections, leaving the region with dangerously low inventories, according to Chief Operating Officer Elizabeth Waltman.

“This month we have shipped 12% more blood to hospitals than we have collected,” Waltman said. “Without a significant increase in blood donations, hospitals may have to review each transfusion situation to focus on the most critical needs, delaying transfusions in some cases. With the holidays approaching, we need to get ahead of the situation, because collections typically decline, but patients’ needs do not.” 

While all blood types are needed, the demand is especially high for type O-negative donors. O-negative donors make up just 7% of the population, but because O-negative blood can be used for any patient in an emergency,12% of the orders from South Texas hospitals are O negative.

San Antonian Samantha Aguirre has been affected by a shortage. Following treatment for breast cancer, she needed blood transfusions. But because her type is O-negative, she had to wait to receive the critically needed blood.

“I have to say, it really, truly helped me – and basically saved my life,” she said.

Waltman said the blood center is extending hours and making an emergency appeal for donors to schedule an appointment at SouthTexasBlood.org/WeNeedYou. Staff will work with donors to ensure that, based on their blood type, they make the type of donation that is most needed by local hospitals.

“For example, people with O-positive blood, the most-common type in South Texas, can benefit more patients by donating platelets or making a double red cell donation,” she said. “People who are A-positive, the second-most-common type, can have the most impact by giving platelets.

More information about the most helpful kinds of donations for different blood types is available at SouthTexasBlood.org/Type.

To meet the current hospital needs, the goals is to collect 2,400 donations over the next four days and 6,000 donations by the end of the year, Waltman noted.

To help make sure blood is available for every patient that needs it, the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center is extending hours at its seven donor rooms, beginning today.

Donors can visit SouthTexasBlood.org/WeNeedYou to find locations and hours and to set up an appointment. They also can complete their pre-donation questionnaires on the day of their scheduled donations through a link in the email confirming their appointment.

Appointments also can be scheduled by calling 210-731-5590.

Blood donations typically decline during December, with fewer drives at schools and businesses during the holidays. But the need does not drop – cancer patients, who receive the largest percentage of transfusions, have to continue their treatments. Blood needs to be available for new mothers and their babies. Accident victims often require transfusions.

Hospitals also need to have adequate supplies in case of major emergencies.

“In a critical situation, the blood needs to be on-hand and ready to be transfused,” Waltman said. “And the need is always there – once every four minutes, someone in South Texas needs blood.”

By the numbers:

  • 400: The number of donations STBTC needs every day to meet normal needs
  • 2,837: Donations so far in December
  • 3,519: Blood units sent to hospitals and clinics in December
  • 8,352: Increase in number of deliveries to area hospitals from 2018 to 2019

Donor room extended hours: 

Donor Pavilion 

  • Thursday - Friday 8:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday - 7 a.m. - 6 p.m.
  • Sunday - 7:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Northeast, Shavano, Westover, Southeast and Victoria

  • Thursday - Saturday 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
  • Open Sunday 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.

New Braunfels

  • Thursday - Saturday 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
  • Open Sunday 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Anyone wishing to donate blood must present identification. Donors of 16 years of age must have a signed parental consent form and weigh at least 120 pounds. Anyone over the age of 17 may donate and must be in general good health and weigh at least 110 pounds. All donors are encouraged to eat well and adequately hydrate before and after donation. Refreshments and snacks are provided to donors. In addition, all donor receive a wellness check. Learn more about blood donation at SouthTexasBlood.org.