Hurricane Lee, with its powerful winds and heavy rain, is moving toward the Northeast Coast, prompting tropical storm warnings for New England and parts of the Canadian coast.
The American Red Cross is closely monitoring the storm, and is expressing concern that it could cause further disruption to the collection of critical blood donations.
US supplies have fallen to critically low levels just last month. The organization pointed to “back-to-back climate disasters and severe summer shortages” for the steep drop in donations.
“It’s really a combination of summer travel, severe hurricane season and back to school activities that has brought us to this situation where we are experiencing a 25% drop in our blood inventory since August, ” Dr. Baia Lasky, a physician and director of the Red Cross, said in an interview with Scripps News.
The demand for blood does not stop during the summer or during severe weather, and shortages threaten medical care.
“Demand for the hospital is as strong as it has ever been…for trauma patients, surgery, sickle cell disease patients, etc.,” Lasky said. “Demand is as strong as it has ever been. So, when our supply is low, it impacts the hospital’s ability to provide for their patients.”
Blood donation is just a part of it. There is also an “emergency need” for blood platelets.
Platelets circulate in the blood, and they are important and clump together when blood vessels are damaged.
“For example, when you get a cut, platelets stick to the site of the damaged vessel, causing a blood clot,” said Dr. Marlene Williams, director of the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. ” Johns Hopkins Medicine.
“There’s an evolutionary reason why they’re there. It’s to stop us from bleeding,” Williams said.
Platelets are important during surgery and for cancer patients, Lasky said.
The Red Cross collects these through a different process than blood.
“They actually only have a shelf life of five days. So, we’re very dependent on daily donations to maintain a steady supply,” Lasky said.
According to Lasky, about 40% of the country’s population is eligible to donate but only 4% do so.
Donating blood or platelets is easy. Find a location on RedCrossBlood.org,