Red Cross declares national blood crisis for 1st time as many hospitals prioritize transfusions

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The American Red Cross is making an emergency appeal for blood donations right now, with the nation's supply at a critically low level.

For the first time ever, the organization is declaring a national blood crisis.

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Kristen Mill has low hemoglobin, the part of the blood that transports oxygen throughout the body. She was diagnosed with it more than a year ago.

"The only way to manage it with the case that I have is through blood transfusions," she said.

Mill said there have been times where she has needed a transfusion every week.

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"There have been weeks where I've needed up to three bags of blood in one week," she said.

Mill gets her treatments at Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington. She says the procedure makes her feel better instantly, giving her enough energy to pursue her career in art. But Mill says she has been worried about news that the nation's blood supply is dangerously low, and she experienced it firsthand after having to wait a few days in the hospital for a transfusion.

"The nurses came in and apologized and said, 'we're so sorry we don't have a match for you, there's a nationwide shortage and we just have to wait until someone donates who is able to cross match with your blood,'" she said.

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"Blood donation across the nation has been down 10 to 16%," said Dr. Gary Stuck, chief medical officer at Advocate Aurora Health.

Stuck said the nation is facing the worst blood shortage in more than a decade, mainly due to the COVID pandemic, which caused a decline in donor turnout. Stuck said many hospitals are having to prioritize their procedures.

"Sometimes we have to cancel elective procedures to put those sickle cell patients and trauma patients at the front of the line," Stuck said.

It could take months to replenish the nationwide blood supply, but Mill says the Red Cross blood drive is a step in the right direction to help her and countless others.

"Nobody is going to be safer about COVID and protocols and keeping everybody safe than the Red Cross," Mill said. "They're here to save lives, they're not here to put anyone in danger."

If you'd like to donate, you can sign up for the Great Chicago Blood Drive that will be held Wednesday and Thursday at multiple locations.

Make an appointment to give blood as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
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