Though the pause on medical procedures due to the pandemic is ending, residents in need of surgery are feeling the impact of a nationwide shortage of blood.
Karen McIntosh, for one, is in need of surgery for “an aortic aneurysm,” she said.
Doctors have told her the procedure could take 13 hours. It was scheduled for last week, but a call from her surgeon put it on hold.
“It’s gonna be a really long surgery,” she said. “There was a national blood shortage and he was gonna have to postpone my surgery for four weeks.”
She’s not alone.
“Patients with cancer, with serious blood disorders and other things that might need transplantation or really heavy intervention… they definitely need the blood,” Dr. Kamille West, of the National Institutes of Health, said.
Amid fewer blood drives and donors, the NIH’s blood bank is also running low.
“This is actually the first time I’ve given since Covid started, so I think that that has been a concern for a lot of people,” Holly Simpson, a blood donor, said. “It’s a great thing to do because people are always in need of blood.”
Meanwhile, McIntosh has to be careful with exertion and diet while she awaits her surgery.
She’s anxious, but not just for herself.
“What’s gonna happen if we have a major trauma event here in the D.C. area or anywhere in the United States?” she asked.
The Red Cross has already used 75,000 units more than anticipated in the last three months. Traumas have increased 10%, which makes the situation as critical for a neighborhood hospital as it is for places like NIH.
“If we have no donors, we do not have blood,” West said.