Commentary story from San Antonio Express-News by Adrienne Mendoza, Chief Operating Officer of South Texas Blood & Tissue
Every day, we see the cold, hard numbers about the blood shortage at South Texas Blood & Tissue Center.
The need for transfusions is up 15 percent from pre-pandemic levels. Donations by younger donors are down by 60 percent. Our “new normal” is less than half of an adequate daily supply for the San Antonio metro area.
But those numbers are just one part of the story of the national crisis in the blood supply, which stretches from one end of the U.S. to the other, leaving doctors, hospitals and blood centers to make difficult decisions about patient needs.
What really tells the story are those who need that blood in our community.
Ask Ryan Morkovsky, whose 3-year-old daughter Amy is battling leukemia. He calls her blood transfusions — which are a necessary part of her chemotherapy — her “lifeline.” Amy’s skin, lips, even her eyes get dull and gray, she’s lethargic, and she doesn’t want to do any of her favorite activities when she requires a transfusion.
Ask Ashley Byrnes, who suffered severe bleeding after her son’s birth. Doctors and nurses in the emergency room had to give her so much blood, they were squeezing the bags to infuse it more quickly. She spent 16 days in the hospital and needed 19 lifesaving units of red blood cells, four units of platelets and four units of plasma.
She said every transfusion made her feel like she had life again — that she had the energy to keep fighting.
Those patients and thousands more are why we keep doing everything we can to increase blood donations. It’s not easy. So many people who used to give regularly at their place of employment now work from home. It’s not easy with school schedules — and blood drives at those schools — constantly in flux. It’s not easy with hundreds of drives canceled because of concerns about the pandemic.
At South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, we’re trying all kinds of new ways to rebuild the supply.
We’re focusing on making sure every appointment is filled. We’re working with community partners and organizations to schedule drives that allow for social distancing in easy-to-reach locations. We’re encouraging businesses and organizations to adopt one of our donor rooms and encourage staff and members to schedule appointments there.
The latest Council Challenge resulted in friendly competition and awareness of the need among members of the San Antonio City Council and their constituents.
And we’re expanding — we just opened our eighth donor room this month in Boerne and we’re well along on plans for a new donor room in Bulverde.
But we can’t overcome this blood shortage alone — we need your help. We need more dedicated donors, especially younger people. We need community partners to schedule drives again or for the first time. We need everyone to go on social media and spread the word about the need — our patients’ need.