DC Area Blood Donation Shortage Imperils Local Patients

The Red Cross says the region that includes DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia came up short by thousands of donations last year

We hear it all the time: "The country's dealing a terrible blood shortage. Please donate."

That's true right now, even as the country wraps up National Blood Donor Month.

The Red Cross says the region that includes DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia came up short by thousands of donations last year.

Kaitlyn Adams, 19, knows how dangerous a shortage can be. The Morgan State sophomore was born with sickle cell anemia.

"From one to ten,” Adams told News4’s Aaron Gilchrist, “my normal pain scale was a seven every single day."

Sickle cell anemia is a painful disorder in which red blood cells die early and can block blood flow. “It could be achy or it could be like a hammer just hitting you constantly or it could be like a sharp pain,” Adams said.

About a year ago Adams turned to apheresis. Every month her body is essentially drained and nine bags of fresh, sickle cell-free blood are transfused. So, Adams relies on the kindness of strangers, blood donors.

But, the Red Cross Blood Services says demand is outpacing donations.

"We would like to have a five-day supply of blood," said Regina Boothe Bratton, Red Cross External Communication Manager. “We don't have that. Right now, we have less than a three-day supply of blood."

The Red Cross provides blood products to more than 100 hospitals in the DC region. There's usually a decline in donations in the winter, but the current downturn has been a problem since September, and the government shutdown last month meant nearly 5,000 possible donations didn't happen.

"We need you to act now because patients need assistance right now. Patients can't wait until next week or next month," said Bratton.

The Red Cross has been pounding the pavement to get the word out, appealing to civic groups and churches and even knocking on doors to tell anyone who will listen that blood is badly needed.

"We are so thankful and blessed for people who donate blood," said Kaitlyn’s mother, Tijuana Adams. She remembers her daughter's lifetime of pain and the time she spent in intensive care units. She thanks God every day for Kaitlyn's new life with donated blood.

"I'm grateful that Kaitlyn is doing so much better and Kaitlyn is ready to be out in the world on her own," said Tijuana.

There are blood drives scheduled across our region right now. You can find one by visiting

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