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'I Don’t Know That I've Ever Been This Worried' — Medical Experts Urge The Public To Donate Blood

As of Friday evening, more than 50 local blood drives were canceled, and as of Saturday morning, the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center had less than a three-day supply. The normal inventory lasts five days. 

Medical experts like Elizabeth Waltman, the chief operating officer of the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, urged the public to donate.  

“If it was normal — normal business as usual — I wouldn't be worried,” she said. “But because we've got all of these blood drives that are canceling — and I'm sure there's going to be more cancellations — I am very worried. In fact, I don't know that I've ever been this worried in my career.” 

The nonprofit South Texas Blood & Tissue Center provides blood and plasma to more than 70 hospitals in 48 counties. 

Waltman urged organizations to not cancel blood drives. She said, at the very least, organizations should relocate blood drives to official donation centers, where donors' temperatures are being checked.

Joyce Schwartz, the director of clinical pathology and medical director of the blood bank at Methodist Hospital, said the Methodist Hospital System will be affected if the supply isn’t replenished. 

“The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center is urgently in need of blood,” she said. “These shortages may particularly affect the patients we see for cancer treatment, for bone marrow transplants or for other transplants at the Methodist Hospitals.”

Samantha Gomez Ngamsuntikul, the associate medical director of the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, said the organization is taking preventive measures to protect the health of donors. 

“Some precautions that we put in place include sanitizing the donor bed and screening room following donation,” she said. “We're also doing temperature checks of all our employees as they come in to work.”

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg declared blood donation an “essential city function.”

“This will ensure that we have all the proper supports in place to continue blood donations in the way that the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center needs,” he said. 

The city shuttered non-essential city functions, including libraries, senior centers and Pre-K 4 SA. City-supported blood drives will continue.

Dominic Anthony can be reached at Dominic@TPR.org and on Twitter at @_DominicAnthony.

Dominic Anthony Walsh can be reached at Dominic@TPR.org and on Twitter at @_DominicAnthony