Red Cross: Critical type O blood shortage; donors needed now

Posted By | May 14, 2019 6:13 am

Photograph is from the blood bank at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. (Photo by Sanford Myers/American Red Cross)

Sparta location among those listed in the area, see list at bottom of story

The American Red Cross has a critical shortage of type O blood and urges eligible donors to give now to help patients facing trauma and other life-threatening situations. As a thank-you for helping replenish the blood supply, all donors who come to give blood or platelets now through June 10 will receive a $5 Gift Card via email.

Right now, the Red Cross has less than a two-day supply of type O blood available for emergency rooms, where it can be most critical. That means just six units of type O blood are available for every 100,000 people, but at least 14 are needed every day. While just 7% of the U.S. population has type O negative blood, it can be transfused to patients with any blood type and is what hospital staff reach for during emergencies when there isn’t time to determine a patient’s blood type. Type O positive blood is the most transfused blood type and is also critical in trauma situations.

“All blood types are urgently needed, but we’re facing a critical shortage of type O blood – the blood group most needed by hospitals,” said Cliff Numark, senior vice president, Red Cross Blood Services. “Because it’s vitally important for hospitals to have type O blood available when every second counts, type O donors are urged to donate now and make a point to donate often.”

The Red Cross collected approximately 11,500 fewer type O blood donations than needed to sustain a sufficient blood supply. Spring break schedules are known to decrease blood donations, and schools, including high schools and colleges, begin to host fewer blood drives in late spring as the school year ends. Because these drives account for about 20% of blood donations during the school year, less drives can also greatly affect the blood supply.

Donations needed now 

Donors of all blood types, especially type O, are urged to urged to make an appointment to donate using the Blood Donor App, at or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Eligible donors with type O blood are encouraged to make a whole blood or Power Red donation, where available. During a Power Red donation, donors give a concentrated dose of red blood cells during a single donation, allowing them to maximize their impact.

In thanks, all those who come to donate blood or platelets with the Red Cross May 1 through June 10, 2019, will receive a $5 Gift Card via email. (Restrictions apply; see More information and details are available at Additionally, those who come to give May 24-28 will receive an exclusive Red Cross-branded T-shirt, while supplies last.

How blood shortages affect hospitals

Blood shortages are not uncommon and can have a direct impact on patient care. Dr. Atif Shafqat, an oncologist and hematologist at Missouri Baptist Medical Center in St. Louis, says that hospitals face consistent shortages of blood products year-round, even causing some surgeons to delay elective procedures because of individual shortages. “When I ask our blood bank director the toughest part of her job, she always tells me it is these shortages and how to deal with them,” he said.

Despite these challenges, hospitals and the Red Cross work to ensure patients have the blood products they need, but that can only happen when a volunteer donor rolls up a sleeve to give. “This is all possible thanks to the volunteers and the blood donors who are giving this generous gift,” said Shafqat.

How to help

Eligible donors can find a blood or platelet donation opportunity and schedule an appointment to donate by using the free Blood Donor App, visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Donation appointments and completion of a RapidPass® are encouraged to help speed up the donation process. RapidPass lets donors complete the pre-donation reading and answer the health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, from the convenience of a mobile device or computer, or through the Blood Donor App.

Those interested in hosting a blood drive can learn more and sign up to sponsor a drive this summer by visiting

Upcoming blood donation opportunities May 14-June 8:

•Sparta Civic Center, 540 E. Bockman Way Sparta, TN 38583

6/13/2019: noon – 5 p.m.

•Crossville First United Methodist Church, 69 Neecham St. Crossville, TN   38555

6/14/2019: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

•First United Methodist Church, 204 East Spring St. Cookeville, TN 38501

5/24/2019: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

•Putnam County Library, 50 E. Broad St. Cookeville, TN 38501

6/3/2019: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

•Monterey Branch Library, 401 East Commercial Ave. Monterey, TN 38574

6/6/2019: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

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