The South Texas Blood and Tissue Center (STBTC) issued an emergency appeal for blood donations on Friday, hoping for 2,400 donors before Sunday to boost its “dangerously low” inventory.

On Monday, STBTC Chief Operating Officer Elizabeth Waltman told the Rivard Report that the organization is still seeking community donations after falling 800 units short of that goal over the weekend.

“We feel a little bit more comfortable than where we were last Thursday after collecting those donations over the weekend,” Waltman said. “But even though we have collected 9 percent more blood during this year than last, the rising demand for blood is exceeding collections.”

So far this month, STBTC has shipped 12 percent more blood to hospitals than it has collected, prompting the need to reach out to blood banks covering other areas of Texas to share their supply to make up for the shortfall. 

On Thursday, an emergency room patient at University Hospital required more than 260 units of blood, further straining STBTC’s already tight supply, Waltman said, noting blood donations typically decline during December because of fewer drives hosted by schools and businesses around the holidays. 

However, the need for blood increases as the uptick in holiday travel tends to lead to more traumatic incidents, such as car accidents, Waltman said.

Because University Health System operates a Level-I trauma center, it tends to see more patients who need larger blood transfusions, said senior laboratory manager Debra Serna. “We do have blood donation services in-house, where we collect from employees, patients, their families, and members of the community. But when we run out or are getting low, we get restock from [STBTC].”

Waltman said STBTC provides blood to 48 counties throughout South Texas as well as Lubbock’s Level-I trauma center at its University Medical Center.

“If we don’t have enough blood on the shelf when the patients need it, then there could be a significant loss of life, a delay in important surgical and medical procedures, and at the very least, [patient discomfort] as they await those blood transfusions,” Waltman said.

STBTC said that while all blood types are needed, the demand is especially high for type O-negative, which is considered the universal blood type because it can be used for any patient in an emergency. These donors make up just 7 percent of the population, but 12 percent of blood orders from South Texas hospitals are for O-negative blood.

After O-negative, Waltman said, the most sought-after donation is O-positive blood, followed by donations of platelets or plasma from people with blood types A or B.   

Anyone wishing to donate blood at either STBTC or University Hospital must present identification. Donors 16 years of age must have a signed parental consent form and weigh at least 120 pounds. Anyone over the age of 17 may donate and must be in good general health and weigh at least 110 pounds. All donors are encouraged to eat well and adequately hydrate before and after donation.

STBTC’s ‘Reason for the Season’ blood donation drive starts on Dec. 21, and goes through Jan. 4. During that time, mobile connection vehicles will be set up at locations throughout San Antonio, including Ingram Park and Rolling Oaks Malls, and LEGOLAND Discovery Center in the Shops at Rivercenter. 

“A readily available blood supply is a public safety imperative,” Waltman said. “STBTC can only provide to hospitals what the community provides to us. We rely on these donations to save lives, so it is imperative that we have enough.”

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the San Antonio Report.