SEATTLE — The excessive heat this week has led the blood supply in western Washington to drop to emergency levels.
Bloodworks Northwest said the heat wave caused so many people to cancel their blood donation appointments that they are now in a dire situation.
"The available blood supply is not enough to get us through a rapidly worsening situation that is changing by the hour," said Dr. Kirsten Alcorn, the chief medical officer for Bloodworks Northwest.
According to Alcorn, it takes about 1,000 people each day to donate blood to maintain a safe and reliable blood supply for western Washington and Oregon.
Blood shortages can lead to the cancellation or postponement of surgeries and transplants. Hospitals are currently being asked to conserve supplies and prioritize emergencies, Alcorn said.
Before the pandemic, supplies could recover from a crisis within a week or so with community support. But COVID-19 social distancing measures and reduced capacity in general has made the situation challenging -- and the heat wave has put supplies way behind.
Alcorn said Bloodworks Northwest is looking at about a one day supply as of Tuesday.
“We lost about 25% of our expected donations in just 24 hours due to the heat and that really puts us in a tough situation," she said.
Alcorn said the ramifications for the shortage could be life-threatening.
“Can you imagine not being able to receive a transplant because we don’t have enough blood?” said Alcorn.
University of Washington Medical Center Director of Transfusion Dr. Monica Pagano echoed the urgency Tuesday, saying, “The time to donate blood is right now. Today. Today is the day. We cannot wait.”
Pagano said the hospitals do have enough supply for normal operations but that won’t last and the upcoming holiday weekend is an annual concern.
People are more prone to accidents on the Fourth of July and blood supplies are a critical component to trauma care.
Bloodworks Northwest is asking the public to seriously consider registering to donate at any of their 12 donation centers.
As temperatures remain unseasonably warm in western Washington, Alcorn was quick to point out, "It’s an hour in air conditioning!"
To learn how you can help or to schedule a donation appointment, visit Bloodworks Northwest's website.