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UK HealthCare critically low on blood donations

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — There is currently a national blood shortage, and UK HealthCare is experiencing a critically low supply of all blood types.

Chief medical technologist at UK’s Blood Bank Daoping Zhang said, “The shortage of blood supply is mainly due to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, which resulted in poor collections. Transfusions are currently outpacing donations. UK HealthCare depends on the Kentucky Blood Center to help supply the needed blood to support local patients. We need you now more than ever to donate blood and save lives.”

While all blood types are needed, doctors say Type O donations are particularly of great need because they are used for trauma patients whose blood types are initially unknown — patients like Cameron Catron, who was rushed to the emergency department with a gunshot wound.

“I would not have lived if I didn’t receive an enormous amount of blood while hospitalized. I lost more than 20 units of blood in my first two days in the hospital,” Catron said.

The 22-year-old was a student-athlete at Eastern Kentucky University when he was critically injured outside of a bar in downtown Lexington. Now just one year later, Catron says he is as healthy as ever after spending two months hospitalized.

“I highly encourage people to donate blood,” he said. “There are so many different situations where people need blood to live another second, another minute, or another day. You never know when your number is called where you will need blood yourself.”

That sentiment about blood donation is shared by one of the doctors who helped save Catron’s life, trauma surgeon Dr. Andrew Bernard. “The life you save may be your own,” he said.

UK HealthCare transfuses about 35,000 units of blood per year. It is used throughout various areas in addition to the emergency department and helps patients enduring all different kinds of medical needs.

Kayla Puckett knows that first-hand after being diagnosed with stage IV Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 19. “My life was flipped upside down and everything I had worked towards was sidelined,” Puckett said.

Puckett remembers on her worse days her hemoglobin count would fall to the 6’s when normally it should stay around 14.

“I couldn’t even stand up without my vision blacking out and my ears ringing,” she said. “My parents would put me in a wheelchair and take me in for a blood transfusion on those days.”

She says thanks to generous blood donations, she would then be able to stand up on her own again and continue receiving her life-saving treatment.

“Without them, there is no way I could’ve completed my treatments,” she said. “I know that getting stuck with needles isn’t fun, but I am so grateful for their donation. With a little bit of pain, they helped me live.”

Puckett is now working on her biomedical science degree at Eastern Kentucky University and is one-year cancer-free. She shares her story often in hopes that it will help encourage those who are able to donate blood.

“A little bit of their time and a small bit of pain can save a person’s life,” she said. “If it was a family member or friend, then you would donate to save their life. Well, the people you are donating for are someone else’s family member or friend.”

The Kentucky Blood Center hosted a blood drive Monday at UK HealthCare, but all appointments filled quickly. Due to the overwhelming response, a second date at UK HealthCare was added. The second drive will take place July 6 in room HA-1116 inside UK Chandler Hospital. It will run from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and appointments are strongly encouraged to support safe social distancing. Face coverings are required.

Appointments can be made by clicking here. Donors can also complete their health history questions online to minimize the time spent at the event.

If you were unable to get an appointment at either UK drive, there are other opportunities to donate at a KBC donor center. Due to social distancing guidelines, appointments are required and can be made at www.kybloodcenter.org or by calling 1-800-775-2522. All six KBC donor centers are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Face coverings should be worn while visiting donor centers. Mobile blood drive locations can also be found on the website.