Less donors, instances of gun violence contributing to Central Texas blood shortage

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Central Texas’ blood bank, We Are Blood, is asking for help from the community as donations reach a critical shortage in the Austin area and across the nation.

The shortage has a combination of factors contributing to it, says We Are Blood’s Vice President of Community Engagement Nick Canedo.

“Right now, the inventory is at a critical level where we have less on hand for a single day’s need for patients in our community,” said Canedo, adding they’ve experienced a dip in donors within the past month. He says they haven’t seen a decrease in the amount of donations like this since October 2020.

“That means less donors at our mobile blood drives, less donors at our donor centers, and it’s hard to know what to attribute that to other than fatigue, potentially allergies and other illnesses, and then folks getting back to their normal way of life as we come out of the third spike in our community of COVID-19.”

He also pointed to instances of gun violence in the Austin area. Most recently, two shootings happened one after the other on South Congress Avenue in south Austin Monday night.

The first that night happened in the area of South Congress Avenue and East William Cannon Drive where one man, Joel Camarillo, was shot.

APD officers tried to save his life, but Camarillo was rushed to the hospital and was later pronounced dead. Austin police are investigating his death as a homicide.

After that shooting, police received reports of another two people in a vehicle who were shot just north of that near South Congress Avenue and Stassney Lane. Austin-Travis County EMS medics took both a man and a woman who were shot to the hospital, where they were treated for their injuries.

On Wednesday, there was still a noticeable trail and spots on the street in front of the autobody shop where the vehicle appears to have stopped.

The owner of the autobody shop of 30 years told KXAN off camera the shop was already closed, and they had gone home for the day when the shooting happened, but he found out about it on the news that night.

When he got there the next morning, he saw the trail in front of his shop that wasn’t there before.

“Traumas play a significant role in the community’s blood supply and how much blood is needed by hospitals when shootings or car accidents are experienced,” said Canedo. We Are Blood is solely responsible for serving more than 40 hospitals and medical centers across the Central Texas area.

“Every day in fact, We Are Blood is sending out shipments of donations to area hospitals for their regular procedures, anticipating a certain number of traumas per week, and when we see higher instances of trauma and shootings, we need to respond and send emergency shipments to these hospitals to ensure they can treat the new victims of these incidents,” Canedo said.

On top of that, it’s not just emergencies We Are Blood is making sure there’s enough supply for, it’s regularly-scheduled surgeries and procedures they keep hospitals prepared for.

IN DEPTH

  • The shelf life of red cell unit is 42 days, which We Are Blood primarily collects through whole blood donations.
  • The shelf life of platelets is seven days.

Canedo says they need to collect around 200 whole blood and 40 to 50 platelet donations every day to keep up with the demand.

For perspective, when the downtown Austin 6th Street mass shooting happened last summer, about 70 donations were needed to help treat those patients, which translated to more than 70 more donors needed to help replenish that once it was used.

“That’s a significant number of donations for a single incident when normally we can anticipate, in a single day, seeing that amount going out for multiple incidents across our community,” said Canedo.

Another factor at play is as the holiday season approaches, We Are Blood is preparing to take a turn for their membership in the Blood Emergency Readiness Corps, a national blood donation reserve they participate in on a rotating basis.

“We need to prepare for our next rotation, which is during Thanksgiving week, so that we can protect patients here at home while ensuring that if an event occurs here or anywhere else in the country and the need is there, we’ll be able to lend that aid,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the blood donation shortage being experienced in Central Texas is similar to shortages being experienced across the nation that are also affecting other centers,” said Canedo.

When we have a shortage, it means that we have to ask hospitals to conserve, and that means patients may not be able to receive the treatment they need — sometimes it’s life-saving incidents.”

Nick Canedo, We Are Blood Vice President of Community Engagement

Canedo says We Are Blood has not asked Austin-area hospitals to conserve at last check, but they have been in conversations with them about what they have on hand versus the supply they’re requesting and letting them know about the shortage.

To find information on how to donate, visit We Are Blood’s website to look for a nearby center or to schedule an appointment. They’re specifically looking for O negative, O positive and platelet donations.

We Are Blood is also looking to schedule mobile blood banks for potential business owners, community events or for churches.

Receiving a flu, COVID-19 vaccine or booster will not disqualify any potential donors.

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