By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming, like every other state in the nation, is seeing an unprecedented shortage in donated blood, prompting a call for anyone who can donate blood to do so.
Vitalant spokeswoman Tori Robbins told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that nationally, the organization has fewer than two days’ worth of blood nationwide, a historic low. Vitalant is a nonprofit transfusion medicine organization that works with 900 hospitals in 28 states, including 14 in Wyoming.
“There’s usually a drop in donations over the holidays season and so it’s been steadily declining over the last couple of weeks,” Robbins said. “Then of course, you throw in the weather factor and there’s bad weather down in Cheyenne, where we have a clinic, and the interstate shuts down, no one can get to us and our mobile blood clinics can’t travel.”
Additionally, the typical cold and flu season coupled with the increase in COVID cases both in Wyoming and across the nation means that people have been hesitant to donate blood, Robbins said.
Vitalant strives to have four days’ worth of the eight blood types on hand, but in the last week, its supply dipped to less than two.
Vitalant is not the only organization seeing a blood shortage. According to NPR, the American Red Cross says the nation is facing its worst blood shortage in more than a decade. The Red Cross, which supplies around 40% of the nation’s blood, has less than a one-day supply of critical blood types.
“We’re appealing to as many donors as we possibly can, because there is a low stock of all blood types, but particularly O-positive and O-negative, since they’re the universal blood types and those are the ones given in emergency situations when you don’t have time to check for a blood type,” Robbins said.
She encouraged anyone who has been turned away from being able to donate to recheck their eligibility status, as some criteria has changed over the last couple years.
To be eligible to donate blood to Vitalant, a person must be at least 16-years-old, weigh at least 110 pounds (certain height and weight criteria may apply for donors 22 or younger), be in good general health, eat within two hours of donating, drink plenty of water, bring their ID and not be under the influence of alcohol or recreational drugs at the time of donation.
A donor must wait eight weeks between whole blood donations. Criteria for platelet donations are the same, but additionally, platelet donors should avoid using aspirin 48 hours before their appointment.
“If you’re a first-time donor and you’re nervous, let us know,” Robbins said. “Same if you’re a returning donor who didn’t fell well after your last donation. There are tips and tricks we know that can help you through the process. But just know, you will truly save someone’s life every single time you donate blood.”
First-time blood donors are also eligible to receive information about their blood type when they inform a phlebotomist about their first-time status.
The Red Cross of Wyoming did not return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment by publication time.