Cancer patient, surgeon encourage others to donate blood as supply hits record lows

Greatest need is for Type O

According to the American Red Cross, September and October had the lowest national blood inventory levels in more than a decade.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – According to the American Red Cross, September and October had the lowest national blood inventory levels in more than a decade.

The greatest need right now is for Type O, but all types are needed. In a typical year, there would be a lag in donations during the summer, and fall is the time to catch up. Due to the pandemic, there’s low turnout to drives and donation centers or drives have been cancelled.

Hospitals, patients and organizations are asking people who are eligible to roll up their sleeves and save a life.

“I honestly don’t know where I would be if it weren’t for those tentacles that I received throughout my treatment,” said Connor Burke.

Burke is a junior at University of Michigan and a leukemia patient. He was diagnosed at the end of his freshman year in 2019. He can remember the day he needed his first blood transfusion.

“Waking up that morning. I couldn’t really even walk across the room to get to the bathroom but by the end of the day, just that one unit of blood was enough to help me walk around on my own,” Burke said.

He said while yes, one unit of blood can potentially save up to three lives, his story goes beyond that.

“Throughout my treatment, I think I needed like 10 to 12 units so that really contributes to this constant need,” Burke said.

That’s why Dr. John Magee, a transplant surgery professor at University of Michigan’s Medical School and a transplant surgeon at Michigan Medicine, is worried about the future blood supply.

“Right now, we’re at the wire, just having enough to make it all happen. So I’m very concerned about what might happen In the future if we don’t turn this around,” Magee said.

Transplant patients, cancer patients like Burke and people in major car accidents are just some of the people who benefit from the national blood supply.

“If we don’t have enough blood and we can’t do things safely, that means it were at risk for having people cancel elective surgery,” Magee said.

Elective surgery can include bypasses, he said there would also be a risk for having to cancel other operations like transplants. He hopes it doesn’t get to that point.

There are those like Jayne Reinhard who give as much as they can.

“Past year and a half I’ve probably donated four, five, six times,” Reinhard said.

Burke is grateful for those donors, but continues to remind others to step up and be a hero.

“Heaven forbid someone will end up in a position like myself where they need a lot of blood. I think that they will regret having not done it. I can say that I regret not donating before my diagnosis,” Burke said.

While Burke cannot donate blood, he joined the executive board of Blood Drives United at University of Michigan that runs on-campus drives. He is also pre-med and plans to go into hematology or oncology to help future cancer patients.

It only takes about an hour to donate blood. To find a blood drive near you, click here.

University of Michigan’s largest blood drive is Be a Hero at the Big House on Nov. 21.

Read: More blood donation news coverage

About the Author:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.