(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Blood donations can literally mean the difference between life and death when it comes to having enough supply to cover all the needs of patients.
Ross Cramer, Blood Bank Manager of UCHealth Memorial Hospital said, “Right now the very crucial need is the O blood types, which is O-pos[itive] and O-negatives. Those are your universal donors. They can be given to any kind of blood type.”
According to Vitalant, which supplies blood to UCHealth, the blood supply for about 900 hospitals is at its lowest level in a year.
“Our trauma center, we work very closely with all our trauma surgeons, the trauma staff, they know how crucial it is to at least get a blood type, just so that we’re not depleting our O-pos and O-neg inventory,” Cramer said.
Trauma personnel assesses the needs of the patients, while also trying to get a sample of blood that would be the best blood type match possible. Women of less than 50 years of age will generally receive O-negative blood to prevent possible complications with future potential pregnancies, while everyone else would receive O-positive blood in a trauma situation.
“Vitalant is doing a fantastic job. They are our supplier, we have meetings with them monthly and then if they’re in the situation where they’re at now, based off their levels: level one is everything is looking good, level two, they’re starting to get critical, level three, that’s dangerously low,” Cramer said.
Various factors have played into the dip in Vitalant’s supply. Cramer notes that the holidays, the cold weather, and dangerous weather events impacted the number of donations that took place. Cramer spoke on the number of donations, up to 1,500, that had to be turned away because of closures and not having staff available.
Cramer said, “If we know that we’ve got a really bad situation, for instance, the Club Q shooting. We reached out to them immediately, told them the potential was there. They’re a big organization now meaning they have facilities in lots of states, so they kind of put out alerts throughout their system to make sure that they could keep up with our demands.”
According to Cramer, Vitalant is at level two right now and in need of more donations. If those levels don’t go up, hospitals would have to look at where to tighten the belt as far as where blood was being used. Elective surgeries would likely be the first medical procedures to be affected.
Cramer, who has donated close to 30 gallons of blood thus far in his life, encourages people to donate, not just because of traumatic events like the Club Q shooting, but for long-term needs like those fighting cancer, potential pregnancy complications, or other less publicized needs. Per Vitalant, only about 3% of the population of eligible donors actually gives blood.
“It could be your loved one in the hospital that needs blood, but it could be a family friend, it could be somebody you don’t even know and you’re providing them the gift of life. Its’ always important to not only donate when it’s critically low but make a habit of it,” Cramer said.
Vitalant will be holding a blood drive on Thursday, Feb. 23 at the UCHealth Administrative Center (MAC) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Classroom B. The MAC is located at 2420 East Pikes Peak Avenue in Colorado Springs. Go to their website for more information.