SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The availability of blood may depend on where you are at in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.
LifeServe, which provides blood to more than 130 hospitals in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa, is not a critical point in supply, Danielle West, LifeServe public relations director said on Jan. 11.
The Community Blood Bank of Sioux Falls will be at a critical point in supply by the end of the week, executive director Ken Versteeg said on Jan. 11.
Community Blood Bank and LifeServe are the two largest suppliers of blood units to South Dakota hospitals.
Community Blood Bank serves Sanford Medical Center and Avera McKennan in Sioux Falls, Versteeg said. In addition, the website said it serves 34 more hospitals in South Dakota, southwestern Minnesota and northwest Iowa.
Huron Regional Medical Center has a contract with LifeServe. At this point the supply is not in crisis, said Kim Rieger, the vice president of marketing and communications at Huron Regional Medical Center.
“We hosted an extra drive between Christmas and New Year’s,” Rieger said. Staff told Rieger that the turnout was great as is typical of the community turnout for any blood drive.
In southwest Minnesota, Pipestone Regional Medical Center’s lab manager Brittany Rustad said the local supply was stable.
The facility receives blood from the Community Blood Bank through its partnership with Avera, Rustad said.
But, Rustad said, there is still an overall need for blood donations.
The American Red Cross announced its first national blood crisis today. It said it has its worst blood supply shortage in more than a decade.
West said all the hospitals that LifeServe works with experienced some decline in blood supply this year over last year, in part because people were working from home or had more time off and were more able to donate blood.
LifeServe did reach a critical supply point in September in Des Moines and released a notice announcing that. West said it hasn’t needed to issue such an alert since then.
“We absolutely let people know if the supply is in a critical situation…,” West said.
Versteeg said more donors have canceled appointments this month because they have cold or flu symptoms or because of COVID-19 in general.
Community Blood Bank did get a boost with the recent Heroes Behind Badges blood drive in Sioux Falls, but soon, that boost will be over, Versteeg said.
The shortage can be in specific types of blood, he said.
When there is a shortage of a specific supply of blood or in a supply at another facility, blood may get moved.
West said LifeServe is moving its blood supply daily to meet needs in various communities.
Versteeg said the Community Blood Bank is able to use LifeServe as a source and a facility in the Twin Cities in Minnesota. But, he said, even the Twin Cities source can have a short supply.
How long does blood last?
The blood in a unit of blood typically has a 42-day shelf life from the day it is donated until it expires, Rustad said. Platelets last for five days. Plasma can be frozen for up to a year.
Pipestone will release blood units to another facility as the expiration day approaches to make sure the blood is used, Rustad said. The blood units typically go to a larger hospital.
Sometimes, that movement can cause a temporary shortage in Pipestone, she said.
Not every hospital uses all the layers of donated blood.
A hospital with a cancer unit will use platelets.
Rustad said one unit of blood can save three lives.
HRMC used between 800 to 1,000 units of blood each year for transfusions, surgeries, and other medical needs, Rieger said.
Versteeg said critical shortages of blood, even a specific type, could cause elective surgeries to be postponed.
Where does donated blood go?
Representatives from Huron and Pipestone, as well as the Community Blood Bank and LifeServe said while the American Red Cross is a good organization, donating blood to the Red Cross does not mean the blood will be used locally.
“People need to keep in mind that while the Red Cross is a great organization, that blood doesn’t stay local,” Rustad said.
Donating at local blood centers or blood lives with LifeServe or the Community Blood Bank is a way to help local facilities.
A blood donation clinic at a high school in Mitchell will be sponsored by the local hospital and LifeServe, West said. That means the blood will stay local to be used in Mitchell, she said.
Still, if you donate to the Red Cross, “you are still helping someone,” West said.
Is is safe to donate?
Versteeg said it is safe for healthy individuals to donate blood.
Community Blood Bank staff are required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 and they must wear masks.
Surfaces, including ones touched by donors, must be disinfected.
Also, Community Blood Bank encourages individuals to make donation appointments to make sure there can be proper social distancing and that no donor is in the facility for more than 30 or so minutes, Versteeg said.
Versteeg and West encouraged potential donors to check local facilities for donation opportunities.
Pipestone has a donor clinic scheduled for Jan. 17. Huron had a clinic on Jan. 11.