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Regional blood supplier warns of ‘critical’ shortages

January 5, 2019

The regional blood supply has hit a critical low with nearly bare shelves at the Beaumont office of Lifeshare Blood Center, where officials have issued an urgent call for donations.

Hospitals in Beaumont say they have not had to postpone surgeries, but weeks of below-average donations have left the regional distribution center in Shreveport, La., with less than a full day’s supply.

The center’s benchmark standard for December is six to seven days’ worth of blood to meet medical demand in a sprawling region that includes Jefferson and seven other counties. December is always a tough month. But the recent shortage, often three days or less supply, has put Lifeshare in a “critical” state.

“Typically our facility aims for 75 units a day, Monday though Friday, and 40 units on Saturday,” regional account manager Denise Duke said after an alert was sent out at week’s end. “In the last couple of weeks we’ve been lucky to get 10 or 12 units — sometimes 20 on a good day.”

Lifeshare collects blood, plasma and platelets at its eight locations throughout eastern Texas and western Louisiana. It’s then processed in Shreveport and distributed to hospitals based on need and scheduled surgeries.

Ideally, the Beaumont donation center likes to have at least 70 units of O-positive, the most common blood type in this region, 70 units of A-positive, and 20 or more units of the other blood types, Duke said.

Lifeshare is the only provider of blood for 11 hospitals in eight counties throughout Southeast Texas. As of noon on Friday, there was less than a day’s supply of the two most commonly requested blood types at the distribution center.

Duke said one hospital outside the local area was unable to perform a liver transplant despite having a viable organ.

“There was a liver available for a lifesaving transplant, but the patient couldn’t have it because the 40 units of blood needed to safely perform the surgery just weren’t there,” Duke said. “It was so tragic. You hate to see a viable organ go to waste, but the blood just wasn’t there.”

Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas has not yet felt any effects of the shortage, spokeswoman Mary Poole said Friday. Christus spokesman Steven Alford said it can call on other hospitals in its corporate network for assistance in times of need.

Lifeshare, too, has turned to partner blood banks to help with the shortage. But Duke said many of those have no blood to spare.

“It’s a nationwide problem,” she said.

Duke said baby boomers were dedicated blood donors, but younger generations are not following suit.

“People 18 to 45 are so busy with their own lives, it’s hard to get them to come sit somewhere for half an hour to donate,” Duke said.

The fallout from Tropical Storm Harvey also hurt donations locally, Duke said. Many regular donors either moved or have been busy “getting their lives together,” she said.

Lifeshare workers in Beaumont have increased mobile blood drives and stepped up recruiting efforts.

“One in three people will need a transfusion,” Duke said. “I cite that statistic all the time, but it’s true. Someone you know — someone you love — will need blood one day and you just have to hope that it’s available for them. … You can save someone’s life so easily, just by giving blood.”

Those wanting to donate can do so at Lifeshare’s Beaumont location on Laurel, or visit lifeshare.org to find the nearest drive.

In addition to donating blood, individuals can sponsor a blood drive at no cost to them.

“All you need is at least 10 people to get together and we’ll come to you,” Duke said. “ We’ll provide the promotional materials, marketing support, everything.”

haley.bruyn@beaumontenterprise.com

kbrent@beaumontenterprise.com

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