Surgery for young cancer patient underscores importance of ample blood supply

Blood supply low in SA area; University Health System issues call for donations

SAN ANTONIO – There is a severe blood shortage so critical that University Hospital may have to cancel surgeries or divert new patients.

Blood donations typically dip during the holidays, but officials said this year is far worse than usual.

Reagan Lee, 9, is a perfect example of a patient who desperately depends on blood donations.

’Important surgeries’ could be canceled due to critically low blood supply in San Antonio area, officials say

Reagan was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma two days after the school year started.

“Happy kid, he loves going to school. He didn’t want to miss it, but this is one of those things that happens, so he’s trying to fight through this now,” said Reagan’s dad, Robert Lee.

Reagan had a big surgery Monday when doctors removed his primary tumor.

"Even though his blood counts were off or low, they still went with the surgery. But at the same time, they were prepared for that, ready with the blood and platelets for him prior to going in," Robert Lee said.

9-year-old Reagan Lee is seen here with his family. Reagan has stage 4 neuroblastoma.
9-year-old Reagan Lee is seen here with his family. Reagan has stage 4 neuroblastoma. (KSAT)

Without the blood and platelets on standby, doctors would not have been able to operate on Reagan.

University Hospital opened its doors to KSAT on Wednesday, showing the empty racks where bins are usually full of blood donations.

"We have frequently, patients that go through lots of blood. They go through hundreds of donors in just one patient. So if we were to have one of those patients that had an urgent need like that, we would wipe out our entire blood supply at this point," said Dr. Leslie Greebon, of University Hospital's Transfusion Services.

Greebon said tragedies that require that a lot of blood can happen to anyone.

"We are one of the Level 1 trauma centers and we are the only civilian one here, so if something was to happen to your family members, this is the place you would want to be, and we would want to have all the resources to give you the ultimate care," she said.

Luckily, Reagan's surgery was successful and doctors hope he will be able to leave the hospital by Thursday.

If you are able to donate blood, go to University Hospital or the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center. You can call and make an appointment or just walk in.

Editor’s Note: University Health System is a KSAT Community Partner.

About the Authors: