|Vol. 24, No. 15||August 15, 2002|
Blood Supply Critical
As the local blood supply dwindles and a shortage threatens to impede trauma care, Houston-area hospitals are continuing the appeal for blood donations.
A public appeal issued late last month by the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center and hospital-based blood collectors called for at least 800 donations a day. To date, blood donation totals have been insufficient to maintain appropriate blood levels in more than 200 regional health care institutions.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry commented on the need for blood donors, saying, "As a people, we are known for coming to the aid of our fellow Texans in times of need. For blood donation centers across our state, that time is now. I urge all Texans to share the gift of life and donate blood today."
Ken Mattox, M.D., chief of staff at Harris County Hospital District’s Ben Taub General Hospital, said as one of two Level I trauma centers in Houston, life-and-death situations at Ben Taub occur daily in areas of trauma, cardiac, vascular, cancer and obstetric/gynecologic surgery needs.
"Our use of blood is vital to the survival of these patients," he said.
"There is a national blood shortage and one that affects us here in Houston," Mattox continued. "I urge everyone to take every precaution to prevent a life-threatening accident. It is also a time when people should consider donating blood to help others. In some cases, those they help could be family members needing emergency procedures or hospitalization. This way, we all participate in our community’s health."
To meet the needs of patients with critical injuries, the Blood Center has begun thawing frozen blood, which is usually set aside for patients with rare blood-types. This action is usually left as a last measure when patients’ lives may be jeopardized.
Beth Anne Hartwell, M.D., medical director of Laboratory Services at Memorial Hermann Hospital and Memorial Hermann Children’s Hospital, said the hospitals’ blood bank levels were 60 to 65 percent of their acceptable minimum inventory earlier this month.
"Because blood banks throughout the Houston network share blood, the problem isn’t localized to any area of town," she said. "If any one hospital is short, we’re all short."
"We’re reviewing and re-evaluating every request for blood and looking at rescheduling elective surgeries," she continued. "Unfortunately, the majority of transfusions are given to individuals whom we can’t anticipate will ever need blood, such as trauma patients and patients with undiagnosed bleeding disorders."
Hartwell said that while only five percent of the general population donates blood, more than 95 percent of the population will need a blood product by age 72.
"It’s completely safe and relatively painless to give blood and you can donate in less time than it takes to go out for dinner – about 30 to 45 minutes," she said.
Houston Mayor Lee P. Brown also urged local support.
"I am strongly encouraging Houstonians to donate blood right away, and asking those who are not already blood donors to become donors," he said. "The best way to avoid a blood shortage crisis is to have an ongoing adequate supply of blood received from regular donations. In Houston, we should not have to make urgent calls for blood donations. When the blood supply reaches these dangerously low levels, surgeries are cancelled and already strained hospital emergency care is further compromised."
The Blood Center, along with hospitals throughout the region, continues its call for all eligible blood donors to take time from their summer schedules to donate blood. The Blood Center operates 11 fixed blood-donor facilities. Consult http://www.giveblood.org for specific locations. Eligible blood donors must be 17 years of age, weigh a minimum of 110 pounds, and be in good health.
Donors may also contact any of the following institutional participants in the regional blood program for locations and hours of operation:
Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center (713) 790-1200 or 1-888-482-5663
The Methodist Hospital (713) 441-3415
St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital (832) 355-4483
The University of Texas M.D. Anderson
Cancer Center (713) 792-7777
The University of Texas Medical Branch,
Galveston (409) 772-4861
©2006 Texas Medical Center