Hurricane Ian has hampered blood collection throughout the Southeast, and agencies say they’re hoping people will come out to donate once the storm has passed.
Both the Red Cross and the Blood Connection say they sent blood to Florida in advance of Ian to help with an expected shortfall in collections there. Now that the storm has moved north into the Carolinas, both agencies say they’re experiencing a dip in donations here as well.
The blood supply remains good at North Carolina hospitals; fall is usually a good time for donations, as schools reopen and summer vacation season ends. But the Blood Connection, Red Cross and other agencies must maintain a steady flow of donations because blood and platelets can’t be frozen or stockpiled and demand seldom lets up.
“Because blood transfusions occur every two seconds in America, a constant safe blood supply is really, really important,” said Barry Porter, who heads the Red Cross in the eastern half of North Carolina.
The shortage of blood will be most acute in Florida, where power outages, blocked roads and cleanup efforts will keep people from donating locally. The Red Cross has sent blood from as far away as Southern California to bolster local supplies, Porter said.
“Florida is going to be collecting much less blood than they would normally,” he said. “It isn’t because there are severe injuries necessarily in a disaster, it’s the interruption of the day-to-day process.”
In North Carolina, Ian had forced the cancellation of nine blood drives by Friday morning, preventing about 300 anticipated donations. Its blood donation centers remain open, but fewer people are expected to come out during the storm.
The Blood Connection closed four donation centers in South Carolina and Georgia on Friday and canceled numerous blood drives because of unsafe conditions, said spokeswoman Katie Smithson. Between the Carolinas and Georgia, the agency will collect 700 fewer donations than expected Thursday and Friday, Smithson said.
The Blood Connection sent more than 1,000 units of blood to Florida on Tuesday, ahead of the storm, Smithson said.
“When the sun came up Thursday morning, widespread damage was left in Ian’s path — including to blood centers, meaning they will likely need additional help until they can get back to fully operational,” she wrote in an email.