Blood donations down, supply perilously low

Why is it so critical to donate blood?

Thomas is the manager of Our Lady of the Lake’s Blood Donor Center, which supplies blood products to all Our Lady of the Lake hospital campuses plus Woman’s Hospital, Lane Regional Medical Center and several others in the area.

Typically, the Blood Donor Center needs 150 people to donate blood per day, but daily donations are down to about 60. Because of this shortage, the center now orders 100 units of blood per day from a pair of national sources.

It’s the most sustained shortage he’s seen in his 16 years with the Blood Donor Center. “I lose sleep over it,” Thomas said.

Blood banks all across the country are seeing record-low donor turn-out, Thomas said. Here, area high schools, large employers and hospital visitors are typically steady and reliable sources of blood donations, Thomas explained, but the pandemic has curtailed much of that.

Yet critical needs persist.

The good news is help is on the way with the Beat Bama Blood Drive, co-hosted by WAFB-Channel 9 and Our Lady of the Lake. LSU fans who donate blood are competing with Alabama donors in Tuscaloosa to inspire the most number of donations ahead of this Saturday’s football game.

Catching and keeping up with the local need for blood will require a renewed and long-term commitment by Baton Rougeans to donate blood three times a year.

The Blood Donor Center is making it easier and safer than ever to donate, Thomas said. If you’re unsure whether you’re eligible to donate, call (225) 765-8843 and the team can help you determine over the phone if you are eligible to donate. Donating blood only takes about 30 minutes, while donating platelets takes about an hour and a half.

“Blood is a precious resource that can not be produced in a factory or lab,” he said. “It only comes from generous donors willing to help their community.”