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Billings doctors say blood donations needed to fight area shortage

Posted: 7:09 PM, Jul 29, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-29 21:12:08-04

BILLINGS – Medical professionals in Billings are calling for more blood donations to fight a shortage at blood banks both locally and nationally.

Experts say donating one unit of blood can save up to three lives. Donations have fallen drastically over the last decade, and the need for blood continues to increase, they say.

On Monday, two experts in the medical field spoke about the need for blood donations, especially during the summer and winter months at Vitalant blood donations in Billings.

“We need to be on the front lines too. If we are asking for it, we need to be able to step up and donate as well, and I think we just have not really seen much of that,” said Dr. Barry McKenzie of St. Vincent Healthcare.

In the U.S., 6.8 million volunteers give blood, which may sound like a lot. But it’s 26 percent fewer than at the beginning of this decade.

“We rely on that resource being there, and when it isn’t there we have to make some really difficult decisions,” said McKenzie. “It’s a bit scary to know that there are decisions being made about the fact that they might now be able to get the blood that someone might need to help save their life. A few weeks ago, I was on call and I had two big traumas come in. And there was an added open heart and there was somebody else with a bleeding event going on in the ICU. And you had to sit and go do we allow surgery to proceed? Do we triage who receives blood products? To be thrust in the middle of that, in the middle of your day and go, how do we address this?”

Erin Baker, the donor recruitment manager at United Blood Services for Montana and Wyoming, says the number one reason by people don’t donate is because they have not been asked.

“They aren’t aware of the issues. They are not aware that people use it so much. A lot of people think blood is just for traumas and really it’s for cancer patients and surgeries and all sorts of things,” Baker said.

Vitalant of Montana says they need at least 150 donors daily to meet the needs of the region.

McKenzie says, “It doesn’t take that time for doing such a huge service for the community. You have to look past that, and you have to take the time to make it happen.”