Nonprofit blood center warns of donor shortage, locals encourage donation

In January, the Red Cross said the U.S. blood supply was at dangerously low level, calling it 'the first-ever blood crisis.'
Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 7:42 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A representative from The Blood Connection, a nonprofit community blood center servicing the Carolinas and Georgia, said that blood centers are currently dealing with a donor shortage.

Katie Smithson, the press and media coordinator at the Blood Connection, spoke to WBTV in a Zoom interview. She said that while the country is no longer dealing with a blood shortage, it has been plagued with a blood donor shortage.

“Right now we are not in a shortage situation. Things got pretty difficult early in January and we’ve slowly and slowly kind of crawled our way out of that where we’re not in a blood shortage. I will say we’re in a blood donor shortage,” explained Smithson.

Smithson said 62 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood, but only 3 percent of the population actually donates. She said donation centers are dealing with a ‘silver tsunami’. Roughly 60 percent of blood donations come from people over the age of 40. She said that as the donor population ages, new donors are not replacing old donors at the same rate.

“We’re losing donors quicker than we’re gaining donors. Part of that is due in fact to COVID. When COVID hit and schools went virtual whether it be high schools or colleges, we lost about 30 percent of our donor base because we used to go to those schools and we couldn’t any more because the kids weren’t there,” explained Smithson.

Thankfully, some local blood donors are still stepping up to help give blood and organize blood drives.

Shawn Flynn, a Charlotte husband and father, helps to organize Little Heroes Blood Drives. Flynn’s son, Liam, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma at the age of six.

“I mean you never expect that with your own child. You never expect it with any child, but especially your own child, and to hear the word ‘cancer’ and not know exactly what we were dealing with was the worst part,” Flynn explained.

He said his son received 12 different types of blood transfusions while he was being treated for cancer.

“I never realized until I had a son who went through cancer treatment just how much of the blood products went to cancer patients,” the father explained.

Flynn said Liam is now three and a half years post-treatment and is happy and healthy. He now helps to encourage blood donation in Charlotte communities.

“I think blood donation is one of those things that people don’t think about until it impacts them,” said Flynn. “They have a family member who goes through a cancer treatment or a car wreck or they need it for a surgery, some reason.”

David Coviello, a local healthcare worker, has helped organize local blood drives through the Carolina Storm Spotters organization.

“We like to give back to the community,” said Coviello. “Plus a lot of people don’t think, when you have severe weather incidents like hurricanes, tornadoes, people get hurt. People lose blood when they get injured.”

Flynn, Coviello and Smithson all encourage eligible donors to consider giving blood.

“Look up a zip code, find a date and go donate. It will take about an hour of your time and you can save lives. Just think about that,” said Flynn.