Blood supply is low, patients have to wait
Ellie Roy, owner of Argenta Bead Co., waited in her husband’s hospital room as her doctor spoke to emergency hospital staff about having blood platelets available to treat the man she is with. married for 19 years.
The platelets did not arrive that day because a shortage limited the supply to Arkansas Heart Hospital, Roy said.
“It’s really scary to just sit there and think, ‘This is something that the doctor thinks could help him, and it’s not available to him,” Roy said.
A little over a day later, the platelets arrived, but there are fears of more surgeries and a greater need for blood in the future, she said.
Arkansas Blood Institute executive director Mario Sedlock said summer is always a tough time for donations as high school and college campuses are closed. Still, the institute is starting to see some scheduled blood drives canceled due to the increase in cases of the delta variant of the coronavirus.
“We generally want to have three and five days of inventory on the shelves,” Sedlock said. “At the moment, we have less than three days of supply.” A holiday weekend approaching is also a concern.
“We expect we could see an even bigger drop,” he said.
Sedlock said blood use has also increased, posing a supply and demand issue. He noted that a number of hospitals in central Arkansas recently contacted the institute saying they expected an increase in blood requirements.
Dr Tina Ipe, division director of transfusion medicine at the University of Arkansas for medical sciences, said UAMS doesn’t necessarily see a higher need, but the blood shortage is being felt at the center medical.
Ipe said she has seen patients who have had to wait for platelets because there was not enough in stock.
“We had to put them on hold,” Ipe said. “We have to take care of the most seriously ill. You have to make a lot of ethical decisions about who we should donate blood products to. It’s not always easy because we don’t want to be in that position.” Roy’s husband Ajit Roy has been hospitalized for over a month. The full prognosis is uncertain, but it started with pancreatitis, which caused dehydration, anemia, and pneumonia.
His lung collapsed and he was placed on a ventilator, and the procedure may have caused bleeding to accumulate in a chest cavity, Roy said. His heart stopped during the operation, but he was resuscitated. The bleeding continued, causing a craving for platelets, she said.
Ajit, owner of Ajit Roy Designs, was sedated for much of his hospital stay, Ellie Roy said. He woke up briefly on their birthday.
“He said to me, ‘Let’s go out for dinner,’” Roy said. “I was like, ‘I don’t think we’re leaving the hospital right away.’ He had a cup of ice cream and I had a bowl of cereal and it was our anniversary dinner. ” He returned to sedation afterwards, Roy said.
Roy said she had always been a blood donor, but now fully realizes its importance.
“Now that it’s been on my face and has affected my life, I know people need blood,” Roy said. “Who knew how to predict that my husband was going to need so much blood?” Roy took to his corporate Facebook page last week to ask people to donate.
“I ask everyone in Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma to please donate blood platelets,” she said.
The blood shortage isn’t limited to Arkansas, said John Brimley, American Red Cross regional director for Missouri and Arkansas.
He said the Red Cross sent 12% more blood products to hospitals across the country. He said higher distributions were needed in areas where the pandemic disrupts normal blood collection operations.
Brimley said on Friday his organization at the regional level had not encountered as many supply issues and had been able to meet its targets for 17 consecutive months, totaling around 19,000 units.
Nationwide, blood banks are starting to take action to help each other through a new initiative called Blood Emergency Readiness Corps, Sedlock said. He said the program will make it easier for blood banks across the country to share blood in mass loss situations.
“We are very lucky to have seen nothing like this, and we want to be available to help others and others to help us when needed,” said Sedlock.
Locally, Sedlock asks people to find a reader and donate or host a reader.
“The most effective way to help is to be able to organize a blood drive, whether it’s a church drive or a community drive,” Sedlock said.
Today, the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the El Dorado LifeShare Donor Center at 1803 N. West Ave. at 14 hours. Tours of the Donor Center will take place immediately after the ribbon is cut and lighted. refreshments will be served.
According to a press release, LifeShare is able to provide 2,400 vital blood products per year with the help of local donors.
More information on organizing a blood drive or donating is available from the Arkansas Blood Institute at arkbi.org or the Red Cross at www.redcross.org.
Caitlan Butler contributed reporting.