Doctors Make Urgent Call For Donors As Critical Blood Shortage Impacts Utah

Jul 6, 2021, 4:36 PM | Updated: 8:01 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Across the country and here in Utah, hospitals are running low on blood for life-saving trauma operations and surgeries. With blood supplies at the lowest levels doctors have seen, they made an urgent call for eligible donors. 

The blood supply is so low that University of Utah Health and Intermountain Healthcare got together with the Red Cross and ARUP Blood Services to make a plea Tuesday for blood donors. 

“I really have not seen a perfect storm like this before,” said Dr. Rob Ferguson, senior medical director of surgical operations at Intermountain Healthcare. 

The Red Cross typically keeps a five-day supply of blood. As of July 6, they only have a half-day supply. 

“This need is real. We think about what we need on hand. Blood is not something that we can store for a long time,” said Benjamin Donner, executive director at American Red Cross of Utah. “This is something that we need to have in the moment that we need it.” 

The blood services said donor turnout appears to be about half of what it was before the pandemic. Part of that is attributed to fewer blood drives going on right now. 

“During this nationwide shortage, it becomes increasingly difficult because we can’t rely on those sources that we normally have relied on in the past, either surrounding states or neighboring organizations that have normally helped us out,” said Deborah Jordan, community relations supervisor at ARUP Blood Services. 

A blood donation is one unit. The surgeons said trauma cases can require as many as 50 or 60 units. Those cases surge in the summer and our growing population further increases demand. 

“All of those factors combined are resulting in a critical shortage of blood units that we haven’t seen like this, that I can recall, in the state,” said Dr. Ram Nirula, chief of the division of general surgery at University of Utah Health. 

The shortage is also a problem for surgeries, many of which were postponed due to the pandemic. 

“Honestly, it was stunning,” said David Beverley.

David was scheduled to give his father, Peter, a life-saving liver transplant last week. 

“It was the day before, we got the call that there’s not enough blood for us to feel comfortable to go through with this surgery,” he said. 

Until you’re in that situation, he said, you don’t think about blood supply. 

“I can’t believe we are that critically low,” Beverley said. 

The transplant has been rescheduled for later this month. 

“We’re just taking it a day at a time,” said Peter Beverley. “Some days are good, some days are bad.” 

They encouraged everyone they know to donate. 

“We’re not the only ones impacted by this,” said David. “I’m sure there are people in a lot worse situation than we are.” 

Doctors remained optimistic. 

“So many good people are willing and ready to come answer the call when they know that the need is there,” said Ferguson. 

The doctors expect the shortage will be an ongoing problem, underlying everything they do this summer. They need all Utahns who have donated before to get back in for another donation and encourage our friends to do the same. 

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Doctors Make Urgent Call For Donors As Critical Blood Shortage Impacts Utah