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Davis Journal

Lack of donors, increase in traumas cause critical blood shortage

Jul 21, 2021 03:40PM ● By Becky Ginos

SALT LAKE CITY—David Beverley had been preparing to donate a portion of his liver to his father Peter until a shortage of blood put the procedure on hold. 

“I’ve been in quarantine and I’ve been getting psyched up to have the surgery,” said David. “I 100 percent understand but I can’t believe we’re that critically low. I’ve literally had to put my life on pause.”

Beverley is not alone. Other procedures have been rescheduled or pushed out due to a critical blood shortage.

“The U of U has increasingly been in a situation where there’s been a critical shortage of blood,” said Dr. Ram Nirula, chief of the division of general surgery at University of Utah Health. “Every other month the blood bank indicates the blood supply is low.”

Since the beginning of COVID there has been a reduction in donors, he said. “Because more people are participating in outside activities we’ve seen a higher number of traumas in this season than other seasons.”

“Our mission is to collect enough blood and platelets to provide to local hospitals,” said Deborah Jordan, community relations supervisor at ARUP Blood Services. “Pre-COVID we had 75 to 100 donations a day. Now we’re closer to 50 to 60 donors a day.”

The need is real, said Benjamin Donner, executive director at American Red Cross of Utah. “Blood isn’t something you can store for a long time. If you look at where we are right now, we try to have a five day supply. Currently we have a half day supply. We all need to come together.”

Trauma is the disruption of the anatomy that causes bleeding, said Dr. Rob Ferguson, senior medical director of surgical operations at Intermountain Healthcare. “Surgery is a trauma. It’s an intentional controlled trauma. Some organs have a lot of bleeding and the body needs assistance. The safe thing to do is to postpone the surgery until we have more blood products on hand.”

It’s important to come in, said Donner. “A couple of years ago I was one of those traumas. I needed four units of blood at that moment. What if it wasn’t there?”

“I have non alcoholic liver disease,” said Peter Beverley, whose surgery has been rescheduled to July 27. “I’m to the point where I have to be treated for the toxins that are getting into my system. I’m one of the lucky ones who have a close family network that can get me through that.”

“I love my dad and wanted to help him out,” said David. “I’m the youngest of four kids. My sister and I were the only ones who matched but she was eliminated early on. It’s a rigorous process. I didn’t know how far it would go then one day they said ‘you’re a match.’ I thought ‘oh wow, now by boys and my daughter can have their grandpa for the coming years.’” 

“I haven’t seen this kind of perfect storm before,” Ferguson said. “It’s a concerning situation. It’s important to get donations to get us through. But I’m optimistic. There are so many good people who are ready and willing to answer the call when there’s a need.”