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'We're In A Dire Strait': American Red Cross Facing 'Most Critical' Blood Shortage In Over Decade

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Donated blood can save a life, but it is in dangerously short supply nationwide. The American Red Cross is calling on people to donate.

"We're in a dire strait in terms of our blood inventory," said Dr. Pampee Young, the chief medical officer with the American Red Cross Biomedical Services. "Perhaps the most critical shortage we have experienced in over a decade."

The American Red Cross is facing a national blood crisis. Dangerously low blood supply levels are threatening patient care and forcing doctors to make difficult decisions.

"We're putting doctors in a position where they have to make the tough decision on who gets a transfusion and who has to wait," Young said.

The ongoing pandemic coupled with weather events has forced the Philadelphia Red Cross to cancel many blood drives. In recent weeks, the Red Cross has had less than a one-day supply of blood types, leaving hospitals in desperate need.

"I saw it on the news last night that there's a national emergency," said Steven Agace, who donated blood Wednesday. "There's no good place for me to donate in Delaware, so I'm up here working in Camden so I decided to get an appointment."

Agace is stepping up and has been giving blood since he was a teenager.

"I've been giving blood since I was about 17 years old and I have a fairly rare blood type," he said, "so they call me all the time. I come in and try to give whenever I can."

All blood types are needed, and doctors say despite the COVID-19 surge, even those who have had the virus can donate.

"Once you've recovered fully from COVID and you're healthy and feeling well, you are eligible to give," Young said. "Another important aspect is that you're eligible to give after you've received the COVID-19 vaccines."

"I got no problem doing it a couple times a day because there's those less fortunate than I am that can't afford to give blood or this or that, so when the blood's there for them and now there's a shortage so people need to continue to give it," Edward Bronka, another blood donor, said.

The Red Cross and the NFL are partnering this January during National Blood Donor Month to urge people to give blood during the shortage. Those who donate will be automatically entered for a chance to win Super Bowl tickets. Donors could also win a home theater package and a $500 e-gift card.

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