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San Diego County's critically low blood supply may lead to canceled elective surgeries

Hospitals urgently asking for blood donations
San Diego blood supply critically low.png
Posted at 5:09 PM, Dec 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-13 20:40:26-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Hospitals across San Diego County are in dire need of more blood. The supply is so low that doctors may soon have to cancel elective surgeries.

With his stress ball in hand, Nick Chantapathet is facing his fears.

"I'm a scaredy-cat. I'm scared of needles," Chantapathet laughed.

But that does not stop him from giving blood every few weeks. As a universal donor type O, he is a hot commodity.

"One trauma can really decimate the inventory," San Diego Blood Bank Interim CEO, Doug Morton said.

The National blood shortage happens every December. Regular donors go on vacation or get too busy with the holidays. But this year, it is especially low, with the pandemic shutting down school and company blood drives.

"We are hoping for the best but planning for the worst," Dr. Kristen Mekeel, Associate Chief Medical Officer of Surgical Quality at UC San Diego Health, said.

Dr. Mekeel said right now, the hospital group only has about 60% of its normal supply of type O on its shelves. Staff is doing its best to conserve, and it has a contingency plan. But at this pace, there could be serious consequences.

"There is a possibility that if our blood type O levels get so low, we may have to cancel elective surgeries," Dr. Mekeel said.

Also on the chopping block are certain cancer treatments.

"We're just trying to keep enough blood on the shelf in case one of those emergency cases, such as a trauma or childbirth or medical bleeding, came in, so we have blood available to give to patients emergently," Dr. Mekeel said.

They are now asking for more people like Chantapathet to step up and consider red gold this season of giving.

"I'm very happy to help," Chantapathet said.

"There's no better, more precious gift than giving the gift of life," Morton said.

As an additional incentive, anyone who donates blood this month at the San Diego Blood Bank will get a free entree at the Broken Yolk Cafe. Your donation will also contribute as ten meals to the San Diego Food Bank.