Blood supply levels improve, but health experts continue to urge turnout during Blood Donation Month

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Thursday, January 19, 2023
Blood supply levels improve but donations still helpful
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A year after the American Red Cross issued its first ever national blood crisis, supply levels have markedly improved.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A year after the American Red Cross issued its first ever national blood crisis, supply levels have markedly improved.

"We're right now staying within that 3-5 day range in most types. But some types are used more often, like Type O, O positive and O negative are much more in demand. So we'll see those supplies drop very, very quickly. And so that's why we're hoping to host more donors," said Barry Porter, Regional CEO of the American Red Cross.

It's an effort that includes reaching out to different communities to try and increase diversity in donor ranks.

"In particular sickle cell patients receive multiple blood transfusions. The closer the match we can get from a racial diversity, the better the patient outcomes," said Porter.

Porter said typically just 5% of donors are Black, though they are making in-roads to increase those numbers, partnering with HBCU's and reaching out to churches to address the gap. A 2010 CDC report found the incidence for sickle cell trait in 13 states was 24 times higher in Black newborns than white newborns.

Last January, during the omicron surge, the blood supply level was about one day. The pandemic has limited opportunities for donations and increased need for blood, though as COVID-19 metrics have improved, donors have been able to more easily return.

Spokespeople at Duke Health, UNC Health, and WakeMed each told ABC11 their supplies are stable, but they continue to encourage participation in blood donation drives.

ABC11 Together Blood Drive helps Red Cross build up supply to help people in need

"We know that weather and other impacts can dramatically change the availability of blood at any moment," said Porter.

"I've kind of done it off and on throughout my life. But when COVID hit, it was just one of those things I could do regularly to kind of contribute, so that's when I kind of got on the eight week schedule again," donor Kami Recla said.

For Recla, the issue is personal.

"I have an aunt whose going through some medical care right now and is getting blood transfusions. So I think it's just really important for us to do our part and contribute," Recla said.

Thursday, she was joined by Governor Roy Cooper, first lady Kristin Cooper and their daughter Natalie at the American Red Cross location on Bandford Way in Raleigh.

"There were times, particularly during the pandemic, when things were acute. There were real struggles because people were concerned about their own health and it was difficult to get donors. And I'm so proud of the Red Cross and the work they did during that period of time," Gov. Cooper said.

According to the American Red Cross, somebody in the United States needs blood or platelets every two seconds. Each individual donation of blood can save up to three people.

"It's not just meaningful, it's life-saving," Recla said.

"We're standing in one of the fastest-growing areas of the country. That's because we're doing some things right. But with those extra people comes responsibility. We know we've got to build the infrastructure and invest in our schools, community colleges and universities, that our healthcare needs to be ready," Cooper said.

As for healthcare, the governor signaled optimism about Medicaid Expansion. Long a goal for Cooper and state Democrats, Republican leadership has recently signaled a new willingnesss to discuss the issue.

"I think we're close. I think we're closer than ever. And I hope we can get it done," Cooper said, adding he hopes it can be addressed in the next few weeks.