WNY dealing with summer blood shortage

Aug 29, 2018

Blood of all types in the cooler at UNYTS
Credit Avery Schneider / WBFO News

Local hospitals are in the midst of a blood shortage, but collections are under way to fill the need.


Summer time is usually a challenge for blood collection efforts across the country. With schools out and many regular donors off their otherwise year-round routine of giving, supply takes a dip.

Upstate New York Transplant Services collects blood donations exclusively for Western New York. UNYTS Director of Blood Donor Recruitment Amanda Farrell said this summer has been especially difficult for other reasons.

“Unfortunately there’s been a lot of violence, there’s been a lot of trauma,” said Farrell. “And the surgery and the number of really critical patients in our hospitals have just dramatically increased this summer and it’s proven to be very difficult to meet the needs of our hospitals.”

To put it in perspective, Farrell offered the example of just one patient who went through 18 pints of blood in just 24 hours. But multiply that kind of demand by the large number of hospitals the organization services across the region and the need grows tremendously. It also doesn’t stop.

An empty row of O negative blood on the shelf in the cooler at UNYTS
Credit Avery Schneider / WBFO News

The highest demand right now is for O- type blood. Because anyone can receive it regardless of their own blood type, it’s used first in trauma situations. But in the lab at UNYTS’ downtown headquarters, O- is the one row inside a walk-in cooler that quickly becomes completely empty. Platelets are also in high demand for trauma, cancer treatment, and surgery.

With Labor Day Weekend closing out the summer, people will be out getting in their last bit of fun in the sun. Farrell said that makes now the time to give.

“Holiday weekends really are a critical time when there are accidents, when there are traumas, when there are things that happen. So if anyone is considering, or is on the fence, or thinks, ‘Oh I don’t have the time’ or ‘Someone else will do it’ – you are the someone else.”

Donors can be as young as 16 with parental consent, have to weigh at least 120 pounds, and should be hydrated and well-fed. The donation process takes just 45 minutes.

“I think that’s pretty powerful when you can save the life of someone in less than 45 minutes – someone who may be needing 18 units of blood – if you can spend less than an hour of your time knowing that that person sees tomorrow, that’s pretty powerful,” said Farrell. “And I think that we all can find 45 minutes in our day.”

UNYTS is hosting blood drives this week:

Wednesday 8/29

Southgate Plaza and Eastern Hills Mall Blood Donation Centers, 10am-8pm

Thursday 8/30

Tonawanda Blood Donation Center, 10am-5pm

Evans Center Volunteer Fire in Angola, 1:00-6:00pm

Friday 8/31

Southgate Plaza and Eastern Hills Mall Blood Donation Centers, 7am-12noon

Saturday 9/1

Southgate Plaza and Eastern Hills Mall Blood Donation Centers, 7am-2pm

Monday 9/3, LABOR DAY

Tonawanda and Eastern Hills Mall Blood Donation Centers, 7am-12noon

More information is available at their website.