Blood Shortage Cancels Another Surgery - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

1/7/04 - Tyler

Blood Shortage Cancels Another Surgery

East Texas Medical Center was forced to postpone another heart surgery today. That makes four this week. All of them delayed because of a blood shortage in East Texas.

"If something were to go wrong during their surgeries they might need a lot of blood," said ETMC spokesperson Rebecca Berkley, "and until we have that, we can't go forward with those surgeries."

Stewart Regional Blood Center in Tyler supplies blood to 41 East Texas medical facilities. Right now, their supply is at critically low levels. In fact, shelves normally filled with available blood are now entirely empty.  This afternoon, there was no O+, A-, and only one pint of O-.  That should change, at least for now. A plea for help has filled donor chairs today, and that blood should be made available within 24 to 48 hours. But, as blood center director Bill Grimes points out, the problem is far from solved.

"We'd have to draw 200 donors each of the next four days just to bring it to minimum inventory," said Grimes, "and then it needs to continue after that."

So what is the solution?  For donors like J.R. Tharpe, who has been giving blood every eight weeks since 1979, it's as easy as making it a habit.

"There's been twice in my life I needed it big-time, and it was there," said Tharpe.  "I want to try to make it available for others if they need it.  It's not that hard. We do things everyday, some important, some not. I consider this important enough to make it a part of my life to do it."

Grimes says eight businesses called today to set up blood drives. Trinity Mother Frances held one today. ETMC is hosting two emergency blood drives this week so you can donate. Friday, they will have a blood drive at the ETMC Pavillion from 7:30 in the morning until 5:00. And then on Saturday, they'll have one at the ETMC cafeteria, also from 7:30 to 5:00.


Kevin Berns reporting.

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