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Blood shortage forces Utah healthcare providers to make difficult choices

Posted at 4:10 PM, Jul 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-06 19:17:21-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s largest healthcare providers are forced to make tough choices, including postponing major surgeries because of a “critical blood shortage.”

WATCH: Blood shortage reaches critical level - what you can do to help

Peter Beverly, 59, was scheduled to finally receive a piece of his son’s liver last week. The Taylorsville grandfather suffers from non-alcohol-related liver disease.

“We are taking it a day at a time, some days are good, some days are bad,” Peter Beverly said.

The day before surgery, doctors canceled the organ transplant. If something went wrong, there wouldn’t be enough blood.

“It’s just like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe we are that critically low’,” David Beverly said, Peter’s son.

“I really have not seen a perfect storm like this before,” said Dr. Rob Ferguson, senior medical director of surgical operations at Intermountain Health.

The blood shortage is forcing Intermountain Health to postpone many organ transplant and cardiac-related surgeries. At University of Utah Health, they’re close to giving a different blood type to patients, risking complications.

“It’s a life or death call where we are in a situation where we may not have the specific blood type for that person and we are out of O- blood,” said Dr. Ram Nirula, chief of the division of general surgery at University of Utah Health.

Several factors are in playing into the blood shortage.

This summer, hospitals are reporting an increase in trauma-related emergency surgery, plus a spike in procedures deferred during the pandemic. Couple that with only about half of the normal donors coming in compared to a typical summer.

American Red Cross in Utah prefers five days worth of blood on hand. Right now, they only have enough for less than half a day.

While Peter’s transplant is rescheduled for the end of this month, the Beverly family is pleading for blood donations.

“We are not the only ones effected by this. We were told there were many other people who had their surgeries postponed,” said David Beverly.

People interested in donating blood can call ARUP at 801-584-5272, or CLICK HERE for more information. They also can get information from the American Red Cross. Appointments are preferred.