Alexandria Inova Blood Donor Services, which supplies blood to 15 hospitals throughout Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., has issued a call for all eligible blood donors to donate as soon as possible due to a low inventory of blood supply.
“It’s been a nationwide epidemic for at least the last month,” said Melanie Allen, Inova’s marketing manager. “I started noticing alerts from the Red Cross and other blood centers a few weeks ago, when I started putting out the emergency alert for our own inventory levels.”
Allen said factors such as the extreme heat, early summer, vacations, and people simply just not thinking about donating are all causes to the low inventory levels of blood. The recent power outages also forced some drives to be cancelled or postponed in buildings without electricity.
Inova strives to collect approximately 250 units, or pints, of blood to supply demand every day, however, recently has found intake dropping between 150 and 200 pints daily.
Allen explained that Inova especially appreciates when AB+ donors, the universal plasma, participate in apheresis donations. This process, meaning “to separate,” involves spinning blood into three components: red cells, plasma, and platelets. One of the components is removed, while the remaining two are returned to the body along with an anticoagulant.
Ric Martin, donor recruiter for Inova Blood Donor Services, has given seven gallons of blood, and completed 467 rounds of apheresis. “My arms have been stuck over 700 times,” he said, “and they haven’t fallen off … yet.”
In his 30 years of apheresis, Martin has witnessed three “generations” of machinery. The first required manual control by the phlebotomist, the donor to have a needle in both arms, and could last up to 3 hours. The second lasted up to 2 and a half hours, with a needle in one arm, and another in the back of the hand on the other arm. Martin said, “It felt weird, but at least you could move your arm.”
Today, the procedure is minute-by-minute, with the blood drawn, separated, and returned all within one minute, and then repeated. Martin stated that the donor is hooked up to the machine with a single needle for approximately 71 minutes.
Allen explained that the current inventory is still far from stable. As donations trickle in, the units first go towards filling back orders and restocking shelves.
Inova will host a blood drive on Thursday, July 26, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Alexandria Health Department Conference Room, located at 4480 King Street, Alexandria. Visit https://www.inovabloodsaves.org/ to make an appointment.