Organization sees shrinking donor base, issues plea for more first-time donations
(Nov. 1, 2019) The Delmarva Blood Bank is facing a critical blood shortage after failing to meet supply goals for October.
According to Blood Bank spokesman Tony Prado, the blood bank supplies 19 hospitals in the region, and needs a seven-day supply at all times. But this fall, the bank wasn’t even making half that supply at times.
“I’ve never seen this before,” Prado said. “Usually summertime is when we have to worry about the blood supply because everybody’s on vacation, which makes sense.”
The blood bank aims for 380 blood donations a day, which come from donor centers in Salisbury, Dover, Newark, Delaware and Chadds Ford Pennsylvania, as well as mobile blood drives, but it was only receiving three-quarters of that goal, and sometimes only half that. Prado said there’s no concrete reason for the shortage, but speculates that families may have been busy with fall festivals.
He also added that their number of first-time donors is shrinking and that some of the older donors eventually become ineligible as they battle various medical issues and take new medications. Since the World Series just having ended, Prado compared building a donor base to building a baseball team.
“Baseball has a farm system to continually replenish the major league team with young talent,” Prado said. “It’s the same for us. We’re trying to develop a younger pool of donors to replace those that age out naturally and who have done their part. We’re basically asking the next generation to step up.”
Prado noted that since issuing the plea, the blood bank is starting to receive more donations and hopes to continue that trend. Due to smart management, the blood shortage has not affected Atlantic General Hospital, according to CEO/President Michael Franklin, who also serves on the board of directors for the blood bank.
“It’s more of a regional concern,” Franklin said, “but we contribute to helping to offset if they get in a crisis somewhere, our blood supply would go to help out the crisis situation somewhere else.”
The hospital tracks the blood count daily and replenishes the supply as soon as they use any of it. Franklin described the hospitals and blood banks as a sort of network to send each other blood, and especially platelets, which have a much shorter shelf life at only five days.
“We make sure we have them on hand in case they need them,” Franklin said, “but we also have to make sure that we’re getting them somewhere else since they have a short life.”
He mentioned that the blood bank is concerned about the shortage as the winter holidays approach, since people are typically too busy to donate then.
“It’s also a big travel time of the year, so we’ll have more automobile accidents which often require the use of blood supply,” Franklin said.
The blood bank especially looks for what they call the four core blood types: O positive, O negative, A negative and B negative, with O positive being the most common blood type in America and O negative being the universal donor.
“I’ve heard statistics between 38 and 40 percent of people walking around are perfectly healthy and eligible to give blood,” Prado said. “The trick for us is convincing them to donate. Only less than 10 percent, and I’ve seen it as low as five percent, actually give blood.”
He encourages anyone who has never given blood to try it at least once, and maybe they’ll find that it’s not the frightful experience they anticipated and will feel satisfied after donating.
“It’s by virtue of effect, knowing that you’ve helped somebody,” Prado said.
To donate, you must be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and pass a mini physical. Prado advised staying hydrated and eating within three hours of donating.
The Worcester County Recreation Center, located on Public Landing Road in Snow Hill, will host a blood drive on Nov. 14 and 11 a.m. The Worcester County Library – Ocean Pines Branch, located on Cathell Road in Berlin, will also host a blood drive on Nov. 15 at 9 a.m. Individuals can also schedule a donation appointment at a blood center at delmarvablood.org.