The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District has declared a blood shortage emergency as citywide power and water outages worsened what was already a dire shortage of blood amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Adrienne Mendoza, South Texas Blood & Tissue Centers vice president of blood services, was brief in describing the situation: Its a nightmare.
The center is extending hours through at least Monday at its seven donor rooms in hopes that people will volunteer to roll up their sleeves.
The nearly week-long freeze left the regions blood bank with a deficit of 2,800 donations, which means it has been able to fill only half of its orders for blood from area hospitals since Sunday.
Mendoza said they received 380 orders for Type O positive red blood cells, but could ship out only 30.
Local hospitals report that medical patients who are anemic are waiting for blood transfusions, while patients experiencing blood loss and in need of emergency surgery wont be able to receive blood if the supply isnt rebuilt.
Donors can visit any of these locations Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Monday from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Call 210-731-5590 or visit SouthTexasBlood.org to make an appointment. Right now, all donors receive a $20 Amazon gift card.
Southeast Donor Room
3158 SE Military Dr. #104
Westover Hills Donor Room
10555 Culebra Rd. #107
6211 IH-10 West
Shavano Donor Room
4079 N. Loop 1604 West, Suite 102
Northeast Donor Room
8500 Village Dr. Suite 102
New Braunfels Donor Room
651 North Business IH-35 Suite 830
1109 Sam Houston Dr.
The San Antonio-based center, a subsidiary of nonprofit BioBridge Global, serves 100 hospitals across 40 counties from the Hill Country down to the Rio Grande Valley.
If this were to persist longer, unfortunately it wouldnt only affect the elective surgeries ... our worst fear we have as a blood bank is not being able to support the needs of those who cant wait, any of those traumas that come in, she said referring to last weeks 26-car pile up in Austin and massive crash involving 100 cars in Ft. Worth.
Neighboring blood centers in Austin, Houston and the Gulf Coast are in the same boat and cannot be tapped to replenish blood supplies used for life-saving medical interventions, she said. Nationally, blood banks are strained as winter storms caused centers to lose more than 25,000 donations during the month of February.
With most mobile drives canceled this week and some donor rooms experiencing power and water outages, the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center wasnt able to collect as much as it usually does.
Mendoza says the center tries to have enough blood to supply hospitals for five to seven days.
Even among the donation centers that remained open through the severe weather, few donors made it in because they themselves were dealing with no heat, no electricity and/or no clean water.
Donors had to contend with icy road conditions and closures and limited gas availability. But now as roads reopen, center officials are encouraging people to consider donating blood.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration actually made it easier for people to donate during the pandemic by easing old eligibility requirements.
Previously, those with new tattoos were deferred for 12 months. But now if the tattoo was done in a licensed facility and is fully healed, the donor no longer has to wait.
Gay men can donate if they havent had sexual contact with another man within the past three months.
The FDA also changed the rules so those who traveled to parts of Europe in the 1980s and 90s can now give blood.
On ExpressNews.com: Blood band reports critically low blood supplies as pandemic cuts into donations
Dr. Leslie Greebon, medical director of transfusion services for University Hospital, said the supply of blood is critically low and while the hospitals ability to perform surgeries is not currently in jeopardy, it could be if they arent able to get more blood.
Greebon says because the Bexar County hospital has a Level I trauma center that treats the most serious cases, having an adequate blood supply is always a concern.
University Health officials are asking the public to help by making appointments to donate at its donor center. Schedule an appointment online at donatebloodtoday.com or by calling 210-358-2812.
The health system is having a community blood drive with KSAT on March 1 and 2 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Witte Museums Mays Family Center.
firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @Reporter_Laura
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