Four days of icy roads and frigid weather have led to a shortage of area blood donations.
Throughout a 56-county area that includes North, Central and East Texas, no blood was collected Friday by Carter BloodCare, which was forced to close all its centers because of the weather. For three days before that, blood donations were extremely low, and mobile units could not operate, said Dr. Merlin Sayers, president and CEO of Carter BloodCare.
"We need 1,100 donations a day to meet the community's needs," he said. "Patients who need transfusions can't wait for good weather."
On Tuesday, 82 units of red blood cells were donated, compared with 930 the same day the previous week. Several blood drives are scheduled for this weekend, and it's expected that the community will help replenish the supply.
Meanwhile, the organization has turned to other communities to make sure enough blood is available for patients undergoing surgery and cancer treatments. But a third of the country is facing the same snow and ice challenges, Sayers said.
When the weather improves, he expects to see a surge in need as more surgeries are scheduled.
"We have to make sure we meet patients' needs," Sayers said "Besides the 1,100 donors we are used to seeing, we'll need to see more."
The bad weather has also caused a spike in 911 calls to MedStar, where the volume has been almost 30 percent above average, spokeswoman Suzie Miller said.
"MedStar is continuing road safety measures and is managing a sharp increase in 911 call volume for emergency medical services," Miller said. "The increase in call volume and extended travel times due to road conditions may cause a delayed response to some non-life-threatening calls."
Fall-related calls are more than triple the average volume, and pregnancy-related calls are up 145 percent.
Pre-delivery jitters may be one reason. Another may be the changing barometric pressure, which often precipitates labor, especially with severe storms or sudden weather shifts.
"Also the icy conditions make already nervous parents-to-be even more hesitant to take to the streets," Miller said. "So we do find some people who might otherwise have driven themselves to the hospital call an ambulance just as an extra precaution."
Injuries from vehicle accidents are up 85 percent, but breathing problems are tapering off, Miller said. They're still running about 22 percent above average.
MedStar continues to suspend its lights-and-sirens response and is not transporting patients outside the organization's service area, she said.
Online: To find a blood donor center or blood drive, visit www.carterbloodcare.org
Jan Jarvis, 817-390-7664