Blood shortage impacting sickle cell patient care

Doctors are worried they’ll have to start spacing out transfusions for patients in need.

SAN ANTONIO – A severe blood shortage is affecting blood banks and hospitals across the country and here in San Antonio.

It can cause major impacts on those who need regular blood transfusions, like 18-year-old Kami Crawford.

“Going out and doing the things I love like you know, modeling, playing volleyball or anything else like hanging out with my friends,” Crawford said.

Her interests are the same as many high school seniors, but balanced in with her school work and social life, the teen also has to fit in with medical appointments.

“The treatment I get is called apheresis and uhm it’s where they take this huge machine and they take out my blood cells which are affected by sickle cell,” Crawford said.

It’s a treatment she receives every three weeks to manage her sickle cell disease as doctor Melissa Frei-Jones from UT Health San Antonio explained.

”Because it is a disease of the blood cells, one of our main tools to treat and prevent these serious complications is to provide the patients with regular blood transfusions,” Dr. Frei-Jones, the medical director of the sickle cell program said.

Unfortunately, it’s getting harder to get those transfusions because of a dwindling blood supply.

“I had to push it back even for a week and I was just in bed 24/7, couldn’t do anything just because of how bad I was feeling from needing the blood,” Crawford said.

During the height of COVID, Dr. Frei-Jones says they altered the amount of blood and how often sickle cell patients got transfusions.

As Christmas approaches, Dr. Leslie Greebon, the medical director of transfusion services at University Health fears the local blood supply will get to that low point again.

”My biggest fear is that I would have to tell a physician I’m not able to supply blood for your patient,” Dr. Greebon said.

In the meantime, Crawford will focus on graduation and hopes that sharing her story, it’ll inspire people to donate.

“I know it can be scary and that it’s not always something that you know you can make time for but if you are ever able to it changes so many people’s lives,” Crawford said.

Both doctors say we are one major incident away from not being able to serve all patients who need blood.

If you would like to donate blood, you can do so directly to University Health Systems or at South Texas Blood and Tissue Centers.


About the Authors:

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Gavin Nesbitt is a photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He has traveled across the great state of Texas to film, conduct interviews and edit many major news stories, including the White Settlement church shooting, Hurricane Hanna, 2020 presidential campaigns, Texas border coverage and the Spurs.