Dozens of people showed up over the weekend after the Central California Blood Center issued an urgent plea for blood donors. But even more is needed as two major holidays loom and the center's shelves remain painfully bare.
The blood center, which supplies 31 hospitals in the central San Joaquin Valley, has a critical need for type O-negative blood -- a blood type that is considered a universal donor that can be used by patients of any other blood type.
The shortage of all blood types comes after the blood bank has seen several days of demand from local hospitals reach record levels -- the highest in 10 years, the agency reported.
On Friday, blood center CEO Dean Eller said his agency was "one O-negative bleeder away from being empty." After The Bee and other Valley media reported on the blood shortages during the day Friday, about 10 donors showed up by Friday night to give O-negative blood.
But on Saturday, "we had that one O-negative bleeder in an emergency room, and that took multiple units of what little we had on hand," Eller said.
About 50 more donors of all blood types turned out over the weekend at the center's locations in Fresno, Visalia and Porterville. "We got a good response on Saturday, but that blood was immediately used," Eller said. "It's a one-step-forward, two-steps backward kind of thing."
Following the weekend, the blood bank's supply of O-negative remains at less than 10% of what the center needs for trauma emergencies in the Valley.
Eller added that with the Christmas and New Year's holidays coming over the next two weeks, the need for blood is likely to increase and put additional strain on the short supply on hand.
"We need a minimum of about 150 people to come in just to meet our basic needs," Eller said Monday. "And even if 150 came in today, there's still usage going on. We almost have to double up on everything just to get back to even."
To give blood, donors must be at least 17 years old, or 16 years old with a parent's consent, and weigh at least 110 pounds. Donors are urged to eat a meal and drink plenty of water within four hours before giving blood.
In an average month, the blood bank goes through 5,000 to 6,000 pints of blood. But more blood is typically needed in the winter months, including the holiday season, because more holiday travel and seasonal fog and rain tend to result in more traffic accidents in which people are injured.
Central California Blood Center locations and hours
-- Jenny Eller Donor Center, 4343 W. Herndon Ave., Fresno. 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Phone (559) 389-5433.
-- Fresno Donor Center, 1196 E. Shaw Ave., Suite 102, Fresno. 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Phone (559) 389-5500.
-- North Fresno Donor Center, 1010 E. Perrin Ave., Fresno. 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Phone (559) 389-5600.
-- Visalia Donor Center, 1515 S. Mooney Blvd., Visalia. 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Phone (559) 625-2136.
-- Porterville Donor Center, 93 N. Main Street, Suite D, Porterville. 11 a.m. to 6p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Phone (559) 719-2022.
-- Fresno County Sheriffs Holiday Heroes Blood Drive, this week at Sierra Vista Mall, Clovis. 1 to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The blood bank also has mobile units holding blood drives at various locations. To learn more, visit donateblood.org.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6319, firstname.lastname@example.org or @tsheehan on Twitter.