Blood bank sends out plea for donors

Anthony Maenza
York Dispatch

The Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank is looking for new blood that can help stem a shortage of that precious substance.

Jay Wimer, a blood bank spokesman, said the organization is looking for new donors and donors who haven't given for a while to help make up a shortage.

Blood has been in short supply in the region since Labor Day, Wimer said, and some regular donors haven't been able to give for one reason or another.

“What’s happened is we’ve had multiple shortages throughout the summer, which often happens,” Wimer said. “But then Labor Day hit, and we in the past two weeks have shipped over 1,800 units of blood in the two weeks after Labor Day.”

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How much the blood center is short on blood varies from day to day, Wimer said. As of Friday, Sept. 23, it had 596 units of O-positive blood on hand. The O-positive inventory for this region on average has 933 units. O-positive is given to patients more than any other blood type, which is why it’s considered the most needed blood type, according to the Blood Bank.

Two things happened around Labor Day, Wimer said. A lot of their regular donors were away on vacation — and because more people were out and about during the holiday, there was more of an opportunity to experience trauma.

“We have had more massive transfusion protocols than we normally do and it has just created this fairly severe shortage,” Wimer said.

Since a post-holiday surge of donors hasn’t come, the blood bank has reached out to media outlets for the first time since November to spread the word about donating blood.

A donated pint of blood is processed during a blood drive at Wyndham Garden York in West Manchester Township, Thursday, March 19, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Wimer said many people who gave over the summer have given two or three times and aren’t eligible to give right now. The blood center is looking for new people who haven’t given recently or haven’t given at all to augment the local blood supply.

WellSpan York Hospital hasn’t been severely affected by blood being in short supply.

Dr. Michelle Erickson, director of transfusion medicine for WellSpan York, said the hospital hasn’t so far had to postpone surgeries or procedures because of the shortage.

“We never want to postpone surgeries. We always want to provide the best care to patients,” Erickson said. “We do find we need to be very cognizant of who gets blood to make sure they absolutely do have a need for the blood supply because it is in short supply.”

If the supply gets low enough, she said, WellSpan would potentially have to consider sending patients to other sites to meet their needs.

“We’re not in that state currently, but the inventory here is not optimal here going into a weekend,” Erickson said.Whole blood isn't the only thing in short supply. There is also a shortage of blood components.

“Additionally, we are seeing a decrease in the number of patients that come in to give platelet donations, which is the clotting part of the blood," Erickson said. "We really could use donors who are dedicated to platelet donations as well as red blood cell donations.”

Erickson said WellSpan also reaches out to donors when necessary. But many donors are elderly and are becoming ineligible because of their own health needs, she added.

“We are really still relying on the majority of our blood donors who are at retirement age, so we would welcome donations, especially from younger populations,” Erickson said.

The blood bank would also like folks who haven’t been giving to come out and help, Wimer said.

There are eight donor centers throughout the south-central Pennsylvania region, Wimer said.Go to cpbb.org to find a blood drive in your area by ZIP code or to find one of the Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank donor centers.

Locally, the York WellSpan Donor Center is located at 25 Monument Road, Suite 198, in the Apple Hill Medical Center. It is open from noon to 7 p.m. Mondays; 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays; 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; and 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Saturdays.