Shortage of blood, platelets taking place

By Dr. Rhonda Cooke, MD, Pathologist
    Blood Transfusion is one of the most common procedures performed in the hospital.  Transfusions are needed every day for trauma patients, cancer patients, and surgery patients.  There is no substitute for blood and all of the blood products that hospitals receive come from volunteer donors.  The BJC Hospital System, including Missouri Baptist Sullivan Hospital, receives their blood products from the American Red Cross, which collects whole blood, double red blood cell, and platelet donations from local donors.

    Most donors donate whole blood.  Whole blood is collected at specific donation centers and through local blood drives at community locations or via bloodmobile.  Whole blood donations are split into component parts, including red blood cells, plasma, and platelets.  Each of these products is used for specific patient populations to carry oxygen, provide clotting factors, or maintain circulatory system stability.  Sometimes, a separate process called Apheresis collection can allow blood donation centers to collect more of the blood component most in need, for example, double red blood cell units or platelet products.  Each product is held in quarantine and thoroughly tested before it is transported to local hospitals for dispensation to patients.
    Blood products are tested to determine their ABO blood group (A, B, O, AB) and Rh type (positive/negative), and to identify any red blood cell antibodies.  The blood is also screened for multiple infectious agents, including Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV-1 and HIV-2), Hepatitis B and C, Human T-Lymphotrophic Virus (HTLV-1 and HTLV-2), Treponema pallidum (aka Syphilis), West Nile Virus and Zika Virus.  The first donation by a donor is also required to be tested for Trypanosoma cruzi, also known as Chagas disease.  In addition to these tests, some products are tested for Babesia microti and Cytomegalovirus (CMV).  Fortunately, the United States blood supply is safer than it has ever been.  Modern testing techniques have greatly reduced the risk of infection by the agents listed above.  Current estimates for the risk of transfusion-transmitted HIV infection are less than 1 in 2 million donations in the United States.
    Blood transfusions can be life-saving and are only given when absolutely necessary.  Unfortunately, the volume of donations is not meeting the great need for blood products in our community.  Dr. Rhonda Cooke, MD, a Board Certified Clinical Pathologist, and the Medical Director of Missouri Baptist Sullivan Hospital’s Laboratory, works with the American Red Cross in St. Louis to promote blood donations.  At a recent blood drive, Dr. Cooke shared that, “We are currently experiencing a critical blood and platelet shortage.  Without blood and platelet donations, patients are at risk for life-threatening bleeding.  In recent months, some procedures in our community have been postponed due to a lack of blood products available.”  Type “O” is the most common blood type, and the supply is critically low.  Type “O” blood is what patients are given in emergent situations before their blood type is known.  Dr. Cooke encourages you to donate blood if you are able.
    A list of local donation opportunities follows:
    Go to to sign up for your preferred date and time.
    • Monday, February 3 at Sullivan Community Center from 1-6 p.m.
    • Monday, February 10 at Bourbon Community Center from 3-7 p.m.    
    • Friday, March 13 at Bloodmobile at Missouri Baptist Hospital – Sullivan from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
    You can hold the power to save lives in the palm of your hand with the FREE Red Cross Blood Donor App! Text “BLOODAPP” to 90999 or download it from the App StoreSM or the Google PlayTM store today!