Blood Platelet Supplies Critically Low

By Christie Duffy

These bags filled with yellow fluid can be a lifesaver for patients undergoing chemotherapy, open heart surgery, organ transplants or who suffer from blood disorders. Bryn Donovan’s aunt battled thyroid and breast cancer. Donovan credits donated blood platelets with helping to keep her aunt alive.

“It feels good to know it’s one of the most direct ways to know that you’re making a difference in someone’s life,” Donovan said.

But supplies today are critically low.

“It’s just these past few weeks. Things have really gotten bad,” said Community Blood Services President and CEO Dr. Dennis Todd.

Dr. Todd runs Community Blood Services. He fears that if the supply dips any further, patients may have to wait for their transfusions. He says keeping platelets in high supply is a race against time. They only last five days on the shelf.

And with donor chairs mostly empty, most of what remains on the shelves will be gone by tonight, distributed to area hospitals.

“When you’re sitting at zero, where we are right now, that is not a good thing. You’d like to have some sitting on the shelf for emergencies,” said Dr. Todd.

According to Dr. Todd, spring vacations, the flu and the holidays may all be contributing to this critical shortage.

Community Blood Services is the sole provider of platelets to Hackensack University Medical Center and it supplies more than 18 other hospitals throughout the region. Recently, they have had to import platelets from out of state to help meet the needs of area hospitals.

Neither Hackensack nor Jersey City Medical Center would comment on whether the facilities are being impacted by the shortage.

Donor Anita Nedswick says she comes from a family of nurses.

“They’re trying to do their best for the patients, and if they don’t have what they need to help the patients, of course there is a frustration,” Nedswick said.

Donors can spend up to an hour in the chair, hooked up directly to a machine, which separates the platelets from red blood cells and plasma in real time.

“My whole thing is I wish that every healthy person would donate. To me, there is no reason not to try it. If it doesn’t work for you, fine. But at least try it once, whether it’s whole blood or platelets,” said Nedswick.

“Once you know about the need, it’s sort of hard not to,” said Donovan.

Donovan’s aunt is now cancer-free. She and her family now all donate regularly.