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Blood Bank of Hawaii: Critically low blood supply a matter of ‘life and death’

As hospitals face COVID-driven staffing shortages, they’re also grappling with another shortage ― critically low supplies of blood.
Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 4:46 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 21, 2022 at 10:26 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As hospitals face COVID-driven staffing shortages, they’re also grappling with another shortage ― critically low supplies of blood.

Hawaii officials say the blood supply has been so low at times that facilities were on the verge of running out. And Kim-Anh Nguyen, the CEO of the Blood Bank of Hawaii, confirms there were several nights this week when there were just 20 pints of blood on its shelves.

To put that in perspective, a single car accident patient often needs more than that during surgery.

The low supply has the Blood Bank of Hawaii issuing a desperate call for donors.

Shawna Lau Kong was among those giving blood Friday. She admits she’s not the biggest fan of needles, but says that doesn’t stop her from rolling up her sleeve.

“I guess I try to go three to four times a year,” Kong said. ”For the past 20 years.”

For her, it’s personal. “My brother had surgery and he needed a blood transfusion,” she said.

Since the, it’s been her way of giving back.

“It’s 45 minutes of your day that could potentially be 45 years of someone’s life,” Kong said.

Blood shortages are nothing new. “But a blood crisis is. It can be a matter of life and death,” said Nguyen. In fact, it’s the first time in history anyone’s ever declared a national blood crisis.

The blood bank head says at times the supply is so low if someone has a car accident or a severe heart attack, “They may not be able to get their surgery because there’s no blood.”

If the blood bank’s shelves are depleted, she said there’s no help coming from the mainland.

“Unfortunately the mainland is in worse crisis than we are,” Nguyen said.

For Kong, donating blood took just seven minutes.

“You can barely feel anything,” she said. “It’s really not that bad. And I think at some point in our lives somebody we know or care about may need blood.”

In addition to donation sites in town, Waikele and Windward Mall there’s a new pop up site at Kapolei Commons. For more information on giving blood, click here.

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