GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — There is still a significant need for blood across the state and the country.

Versiti blood centers supply hospitals in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. Currently, the facilities have a one-day supply of blood or less, which is critically low. 

During the donation process, medical staff take small vials of a donor’s blood to send for testing. Volunteers then drive those vials from mobile blood collection sites or main collection centers to Versiti’s main testing facility in Indianapolis.

The bag of blood, referred to as a unit of blood, goes to the core processing facility in Grand Rapids, where employees spin it out to express the plasma off the top and filter the red cells again to get as many of the white cells out. Then each part goes to a different patient, and it all happens very quickly when the supply is so critically low.

“Blood is just flying off the shelf. Typically, we would like to see a five- to six-day supply on the shelf. Right now, we’re down to one day,” explained Dawn Kaiser, the vice president and director of donor services. 

This week, the refrigerator room inside the core processing center has plenty of empty shelves. Kaiser, who has been in blood banking for more than 30 years, says this is the lowest supply she has seen in a decade.

A unit of blood is good for about 40 days, but it is rare for one to last that long before it gets sent out to a hospital for use. The only time Kaiser can recall having an overabundance of donors was after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. 

Trauma, like a car accident or gun violence, is the number one reason someone will end up needing a transfusion. One patient in a car accident or a transplant patient might need 50 or 60 units of blood, and there is no substitute.

“When a physician is ordering a unit of platelets or a unit of packed red cells, that’s medicine. If that’s not there, then they don’t have what they need to treat the patient,” Kaiser said. 

Once a unit of blood leaves core processing, it generally stays local. For example, blood from a donor in West Michigan could go to Munson, Beaumont, Henry Ford or another hospital that Versiti services but will likely end up at Spectrum.

Versiti staff members encourage all donors to book their next appointment at the end of their donation so that they don’t forget.

“We’re still going to need blood eight weeks from now. The need is always constant,” Kaiser said. 

Versiti is offering a $25 e-gift card to first-time donors. The Red Cross has also added promotions to encourage donations. 

Blood bank managers prefer that donors make an appointment so they can staff the centers appropriately. Donors can fill out the questionnaire online ahead of time.