Blood donations in critical need following Hurricane Laura

Blood donations in critical need following Hurricane Laura
. (Source: kauz)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Health officials are asking people across Louisiana to consider donating blood to replenish the supply in the wake of Hurricane Laura.

“Hospitals are being forced to make tough decisions right now that could impact the outcome for their patients,” said LifeShare Regional Director Michael Pena. “Since Thursday, LifeShare has collected 393 units of red blood cells. That’s 26% of the blood LifeShare needs to support the transplants, traumas, and other treatments requiring a blood transfusion at our local hospitals.”

For more than a week, LifeShare has been reaching out to other blood centers for help, but because of the nationwide blood shortage, only a few blood centers were able to provide minimal assistance.

LifeShare is running on a critically low inventory and isn’t filling many hospital orders. As of Thursday morning, LifeShare didn’t have any units of B negative blood in Baton Rouge and only had one unit of O negative blood. O negative is the universal blood type and is often given to mothers and infants.

“We would like to say we’ve seen an incredible response from the community thus far, but that’s not the case,” says LifeShare Regional Director Michael Pena. “The response has been mediocre, and we need big numbers to catch up. People are waiting right now.”

While red blood cells can be kept refrigerated for up to 42 days after donation, at LifeShare, donated blood is only on the shelf for a few hours – sometimes minutes – before it is sent to a hospital following testing. “We have more patients waiting for blood than donors. We have to meet that need,” says Pena

This appeal is going out to everyone, but LifeShare is trying to focus on young donors. “This is a time of year when we would typically be in our high schools and colleges. Because of COVID-19, many of these blood drives are canceled or are yielding far fewer donors than usual. Most people don’t recognize that nearly one-quarter of the blood supply comes from teenagers. Young people are the backbone of the local blood supply,” says Pena.

LifeShare is operating on extended hours at all of its donor centers. All donor centers will be open this week Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Several mobile drives will also be operating. All mobile locations can be found at or on the LifeShare app. The donor center in Lake Charles remains closed as the facility is still without water and electricity.

Jared Laurent says Vitalant lost almost 400 blood donations due to blood drive cancellations and the closure of donation centers from Hurricane Laura.

Donations of all blood types right now, according to Laurent.

Vitalant’s donation centers will open Friday, Aug. 28 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and Morgan City. The donation centers will also be open Saturday, Aug. 29 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 30. from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Organizers ask you to schedule your appointment to donate as soon as conditions are safe enough for you to travel by clicking here or calling 1-877-25-VITAL (258-4825).

In order to effectively uphold social distancing standards, appointments are strongly encouraged. Face coverings are required for all donors and staff. Donation officials ask you wear a face covering that covers both your nose and mouth.

All successful blood donations will be tested for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Click here for more information on the antibody test.

If you have recovered from COVID-19, are at least 28 days symptom-free and are interested in donating convalescent plasma, click here.

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