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Cape Fear Region short on blood, Red Cross calls for donors

A blood transfusion bag hangs in an operating room in a hospital in the Republic of Congo. Most countries in sub-Saharan Africa have a huge gap between blood supply and demand, new research found.

The American Red Cross is seeking donors to fill a gap at the end of 2021.

The entire United States is low on blood, and that shortage extends to North Carolina. Recent natural disasters, like the tornadoes in Kentucky, have worsened the shortage: Donors who would normally give blood in those areas are unable to make their appointments.

Cally Edwards, communications director for the American Red Cross in Eastern North Carolina, said the Red Cross provided over 200 units of blood for people that were affected by those tornadoes: "So the benefit of us is that when people donate blood, it is used locally, but it is also used where patients need it."

But the pandemic has lowered the number of people coming in to give blood, she said.

Meanwhile, the need for blood grew at the beginning of 2021 when hospitals began conducting surgeries that had been delayed during the earlier periods of the pandemic. "So there was an uptick in the need for blood during that time,” Edwards said.

When hospitals are short on supply, they sometimes delay non-emergency procedures, according to a spokesperson for Novant, which owns the New Hanover Regional Medical Center, the main hospital for southeastern North Carolina.

Edwards says donors are less likely to give blood during the holidays, so the Red Cross is at its lowest blood supply level in a decade.

Those interested in donating can go to www.redcrossblood.org