Blood banks battle historic low supply

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The American Red Cross sounded the alarm over blood shortages this week … declaring its first ever blood crisis. It’s a crisis that’s hitting hard here at home, where blood banks are scrambling to find donors. Nationally, the American Red Cross says blood supplies haven’t been this low in more than a decade.

Blood banks in Kern County say they’re struggling to supply blood for every patient in need … as many shelves at the Houchin Community Blood Bank remain empty.

“I’ve been in the blood industry for over 28 years, and I’ve never honestly seen it this bad for so long,” said Patrick Clary, Manager of Blood Inventory for the Houchin Community Blood Bank. “I’ve stayed awake many nights, worried about ‘do I have enough blood to get me through the night?’ Because I don’t want anyone to die on my shift.”

Clary says donations have slowed during the pandemic … as people stay home and delay appointments. But that’s not the only problem.

“I can’t donate if I become infected, with COVID, and I can’t work here if I get infected with COVID,” said Clary. “The American Red Cross, for example, has reduced collection capabilities due to reduced staff, because they’re out on COVID.”

Houchin Community Blood Bank says just 3% of the population donates blood … creating a roadblock for local hospitals.

“The odds of surviving a traumatic event here in Kern County are greatly diminished because of the blood supply right now,” said Clary.

Gary Ketchell has donated more than 18 gallons of blood … but he says that isn’t enough.

“I’ve had probably 900 to 1,000 needles poked in me over the years,” said Ketchell. “It’s been a mission of mine for a long time, but old guys like me aren’t going to last forever.”

The Red Cross says donating blood can help you save lives.

“It does take one hour of your day, every two months if you’re a blood donor. But that one hour a day can really go the distance to help your community,” said Taylor Poisall, Regional Communication Director for the American Red Cross.

If you want to donate blood, visit the Houchin Community Blood Bank’s website.

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