What does the blood shortage across US mean for San Antonio?

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SAN ANTONIO – The American Red Cross described the supply of blood across the U.S. as critically low after the Fourth of July holiday. 

But what does that mean for San Antonio and its surrounding areas?

The South Texas Blood and Tissue Center said even though locally the blood supply isn’t as high as it needs to be, the national shortage still impacts the area.

When a KSAT News crew walked into the Donor Pavilion at the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center on Thursday afternoon, all but one bed was empty. In that occupied bed was 26-year-old Lena Westerfeld, who said she tries to donate blood monthly. 

Dr. Samantha Gomez, with the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center, said when there is a nationwide shortage, everyone is impacted because it starts a chain reaction of blood centers borrowing from other parts of the country.

“The demand is still there. There are still patients that need blood because they have cancer or they can have accidents," Gomez said.

During the summertime, typically, the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center has lower amounts of donations.

The following are statistics from the summer months:

  • First week of July 2018: 1,407 donations

  • First week of July 2019: 1,903 donations

  • June 2018: 8,966 donations

  • June 2019: 9,557 donations

Normally, it takes 11,200 donors to meet the local need of serving 48 counties and more than 100 medical centers.

“Blood centers worry about this every summer, and that's because there's no school in session. We see a 20% decline in blood donations during the summer,” said Roger Ruiz, with the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center.

During the school year, the center is able to hold between 30 and 40 more blood drives a month than during the summer months.

The following are blood drive statistics from the center:

  • 214 mobile drives in May 2019

  • 181 mobile drives in June 2019

It's not just the summer months that take a hit. Take a look how low the donations from the recent holidays compare to the daily need of 400 donations to serve the 48 counties and over 100 medical centers in South Texas:

Thanksgiving 2018: 0 donations

Christmas 2018: 0 donations

Easter 2019: 49 donations

Memorial Day 2019: 287 donations

July 4th 2019: 118 donations

Westerfeld urges people in the community to get out.

“You never know when it's going to happen, even people with no history of cancer or blood illnesses. It can come out of left field,” Westerfeld said.

Currently, the center says it has less than a day supply of O-positive and O-negative left.

O-negative is the universal blood type, so to have that low of a level is dangerous, as well as for O- positive. Thirty six percent of the population needs O-positive.

About the Authors:

Sarah Acosta is a weekend Good Morning San Antonio anchor and a general assignments reporter at KSAT12. She joined the news team in April 2018 as a morning reporter for GMSA and is a native South Texan.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.