Doctors and patients worry during nationwide blood crisis

Blood centers, hospitals across the nation are having to make difficult decisions when it comes to blood supply and who needs it most

SAN ANTONIO – It’s a first in history— the American Red Cross has declared a nationwide blood crisis.

Our area has dealt with shortages before, for over a year now, but it’s now reached a critical point with life-threatening consequences.

Mia Perez is a beautiful 8-year-old girl who likes to bake with her mom and play Minecraft with her siblings.

She’s also battling T-cell leukemia.

“It attacks the bone marrow. So she needed blood right away and then that never stopped,” Mia’s mom Teresa explained.

Teresa is one of many who are on edge after hearing our blood shortage has reached a critical level nationwide.

“The biggest fear is just her not being able to continue her treatment,” Teresa said.

Dr. Leslie Greebon is the section chief and medical director of University Hospital Transfusion Services. She’s never been more worried about what this means for patients.

“We’re going to get to the point where we’re not going to have enough for them or the people who are massively bleeding,” Dr. Greebon said. “And that’s that’s scary because then that’s acute life-threatening things that are going to end up killing the patient.”

The majority of their blood comes from their own blood center.

“We are consistently running at 50% or below our critical inventory level. So it’s we’re in the red. We are in a danger area,” Dr. Greebon said.

If they turn to the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center, they would be competing with other hospitals across South Texas and the condition of the patient in the hospital.

“It’ll come down to me having discussions with physicians about what is the prognosis of your patient if this is a horrible bleeding patient? Are they likely to survive? If not, I can’t waste resources on this patient,” Dr. Greebon explained.

Currently, we are hovering around a two-day supply of blood and a half-day supply of O-positive blood from the STBTC. Normally that center can ask for help from other blood banks, but not anymore.

“With this nationwide, blood crisis there is no one to to help move that blood from another state or another city,” Dr. Samantha Gomez Ngamsuntikul, the associate medical director at the STBTC said.

The Red Cross is reporting a 10% drop in donors, a fact that needs to change so children battling cancer like Mia can keep getting the treatment she needs.

“Just try it one time and think about the person that you’re really helping out. You’re not just helping the patient, but you’re helping the whole family get through something really tough,” Teresa said.

Part of what is leading to this crisis is a rise in omicron cases. So far, eight blood drives with the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center have been canceled.

Those blood drives could have supplied around 400 donations.

But you don’t have to wait for a blood drive to donate. You can donate directly to University Hospital by registering online or giving them a call (210)358-2812.

You can also donate easily to the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center by calling (210)731-5590 or registering online.

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.

Adam Barraza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12 and an El Paso native. He interned at KVIA, the local ABC affiliate, while still in high school. He then moved to San Antonio and, after earning a degree from San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, started working in news. He’s also a diehard Dodgers fan and an avid sneakerhead.

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