James Chapman, 21, donated platelets Monday afternoon. He is a regular donor, and his window of eligibility happened to line up with the demand from Hurricane Ian. (Lindsay Schindler/WUFT News)

Hurricane Ian threatens the already-low local blood supply

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LifeSouth Community Blood Centers have been in emergency need of blood for months.

This means there is less than a two-day supply of blood on hospital shelves, where a “safe” supply would be a five-to seven-day supply. The impending Hurricane Ian threatens this supply further, as forced donation center closings would completely deplete the local blood, plasma, and platelet supply.

If wind speeds get too high, LifeSouth’s bloodmobiles will be unable to drive, canceling all mobile blood drives. If it’s not safe for the general public to drive, then the donation centers have to close as well for employee safety.

LifeSouth is the sole supplier of blood products to Gainesville hospitals and the surrounding area.

Laura Bialeck, LifeSouth’s community development coordinator, expressed how detrimental this storm could be.

“It could not be at a worse time,” she said. “If we have to close for a day or two, it’s catastrophic.”

Platelets, for example, only have a shelf life of five days. These are used to treat cancer patients, who are reliant on the public’s ability to donate.

Blood, platelets, and plasma all must be processed before they can be used, so it’s crucial to receive donations as soon as possible.

“People are really good about wanting to come in after a disaster,” Bialeck said, “but we need to have blood on the shelves now.”

LifeSouth Community Blood Center was nearly empty Monday afternoon, despite its need for blood donors. LifeSouth had not received nearly as many donations as officials there had hoped for in the days leading up to the storm. (Lindsay Schindler/WUFT News)

Leanne Haggerty, 20, has been donating blood since she was 16 and 110 pounds, the eligible age and weight to donate. As a University of Florida student on the pre-med track, she has an understanding of how natural disasters affect hospitals and wanted to help.

Haggerty donated blood on Friday when she first heard about Hurricane Ian, knowing how long it takes for blood to be processed and become usable.

“It makes me sad that so many people are eligible and choose not to donate,” she said. “It’s especially scary because it’s pretty likely people will get injured in the hurricane and need it.”

Bialeck anticipates the local blood supply to be obliterated by Hurricane Ian. This would be detrimental for people who depend on regular transfusions and anyone injured by the impending storm.

“It really takes a community,” Bialeck said. “It’s the community’s responsibility to make sure that the blood supply is at a safe level.”

About Lindsay Schindler

Lindsay is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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