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Surge in gun violence adds to blood shortage at Richmond hospitals

Posted at 1:20 PM, Jul 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-13 13:20:46-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- With the recent surge in gun violence across the Richmond area, hospitals are also seeing a rise in trauma patients -- adding to an already high demand for blood donations.

The American Red Cross said the situation in Central Virginia right now is severe, and the organization needs more than 1,000 additional blood donations per day to meet demand at hospitals.

“We've seen an incredible increase in the number of trauma cases that we're seeing," explained Medical Director of Transfusion Medicine at VCU Kimberly Sanford. “These trauma cases are consuming large volumes of blood products when they are coming in.”

Sanford said VCU is actively working with their bedside medical team to see if they can put off transfusions for some patients until their next shipment of blood arrives.

“We also reinforce very strict guidelines for when a patient needs to be transfused to assess that patient and really make certain that transfusion is really necessary for the patient's care," she noted.

Virginia's emergency rooms have seen a 10% jump in demand for blood so far this year.

Jonathan McNamara, spokesperson for the American Red Cross, said traumas are up, and so are car accidents and elective surgeries.

"We have trauma patients who can use in some cases even up to 200 units of blood from one shooting," McNamara explained. "We see averages of about 40 to 60 units sometimes can be used for a single trauma patient."

Blood donations are down, according to the Red Cross, making the situation more dire. While the organization can transport blood across the country, the summer months already tend to be a slower donation time, McNamara explained.

"That’s why there is no substitute for the donor," he said. "The donor at the other end allows us as an organization to be able to meet the demands of doctors and nurses who are doing this work, and there’s a patient at the other end of that donation we don’t want to have to wait."

The Red Cross and VCU are asking anyone who is able to consider giving the gift of life.

"I’ve had a chance to sit in a room when a patient gets transfused, and you see the life come back into them," McNamara explained. "What you are doing when you donate blood is giving a piece of yourself, and I can't think of anything more personal."

You can visit RedCrossBlood.org to find a list of the closest places to donate blood near you. Right now, everyone who donates will receive a $10 Amazon gift card .

If you aren't able to donate but would still like to help out, the Red Cross said it's always looking for volunteers and new locations to host blood drives, so they encourage you to reach out to them for more information.