Watch CBS News

'Its Devastating That We Are At This Point': Critical Blood Shortage Impacts Patients

SACRAMENTO ( CBS13) - Blood shortages across the nation, including in Northern California, are impacting hospital blood supplies.

"It's devastating that we are at this point," explained UC Davis Health Patient, Helena Jones.

A lack of energy and weakness are just some of the symptoms Helena Jones feels a week away from her next blood transfusion.

"I am drained. My body typically tells me every three and a half weeks to three weeks, okay we need blood, and its like clockwork," she explained.

For 20 years, every month Helena has been dependent on blood donations. She was diagnosed with Sickle Cell Anemia, a red blood cell disorder. In her adult years, she was diagnosed with another blood disease. Her body is so dependent on chronic transfusions, that the one time she didn't receive enough blood she had a stroke in her mid 20's.

"To have to think about that every day and then for your body to have to rely on that. It's like our lifeline," she explained.

Helena is started feeling the impacts of the recent national blood shortage during her blood transfusion last month. For the first time, she was given a lower amount of blood, specifically due to the supply constraints.

"I've heard of blood shortages before but me seeing it and being affected by it is totally different," said Helena. "I was supposed to get six units of blood, but because we have a blood shortage right now I was only able to get five units. Just that one unit of blood does make a difference, in my energy level, how long the blood is going to last, just my everyday life," she said.

The American Red Cross is responsible for 40 percent of the nation's blood supply. The organization is making a plea to encourage everyone who is eligible to donate blood.

"When you spend an hour donating blood that single donation could save up to three lives," explained spokesperson, Steve Walsh.

Steve Walsh, a spokesperson for the California Gold Country Region of the American Red Cross, credits the critical shortage to deferred medical care during the pandemic, an increase in elective surgeries, and a spike in trauma cases.

"This situation right now is so unique after the pandemic that if there is ever a time to donate blood this year, this is the time," Walsh explained.

Dr. Sarah Barnhard, UC Davis Health Director of Transfusion Services, says at UC Davis Health, their normal inventory has been cut in half. The hospital serves as the Sacramento region's Level 1 trauma center.

"We have not faced this type of situation before," she explained. "What we have been asked to do is cut back that 5-7 day supply and instead to a 3 to 5 day supply and we have had situations where we have even dropped below that," said Dr. Barnhard.

Barnhard explained the hospital has not had to triage patients because of the shortage but said there are contingency plans in place if the blood supply decreases further.

"We are still able to meet the patient demand but anything much lower than that we may be hitting some sort of crisis situation," she said.

It's a reality for Helena and so many others, she hopes to encourage more people to roll up their sleeves

"Just you donating is saving a life or just keeping someone afloat like myself. Getting blood has kept me afloat for the last 20 years," explained Helena.

Click here to find out where you can donate blood.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.