San Francisco residents looking to donate blood now have another option at their disposal. The American Red Cross opened a new blood and platelet donation center on Market Street, just two blocks from the Van Ness Muni subway station.
The donation center officially opened doors in August at 1663 Market St., but Mayor London Breed state Sen. Scott Wiener came out to celebrate the new facility Monday. The Red Cross awarded Wiener with the California Legislator of the Year Award.
Red Cross officials said they are experiencing a blood and platelet shortage that will require 10,000 additional blood products each week over the next month to meet the needs of patients and hospitals. Nationally, the Red Cross said blood supply is at its lowest point since 2015.
Justin Mueller, the Red Cross regional donor services executive, said platelet donations are especially important for cancer patients.
Stressing the constant need, Mueller said:
“These tiny cells have a very short shelf life, just five days from the time they’re donated. So, there’s… currently a critical need for new and current donors to give in order to keep up with our hospital demand.”
The Covid-19 pandemic is playing a role in the donation shortage. Fewer people have gone to donation centers during the pandemic, and blood drives usually held at schools, colleges and other educational institutions came to a halt for an extended period of time, Mueller said.
Red Cross Regional CEO Jennifer Adrio said the nonprofit recently launched an initiative to encourage more blood donors from the Black community in order to help patients with sickle cell disease. Adrio said the Market Street donation center will aid in meeting those goals.
More than 100,000 people in the U.S. have sickle cell disease — also known as sickle cell anemia — and the majority of patients with the disease are of African descent, the Red Cross said. Officials said Black donors have distinguishable blood markers that make them ideal candidates to help sickle cell patients who require regular transfusions.
Nichole Jordan, who sits on the Red Cross Bay Area’s Board of Directors, shared the story of her brother, who lived with sickle cell disease throughout his life. She recalled the sometimes debilitating pain and sickness he experienced, especially at high altitudes.
Jordan said she and her brother flew to Los Angeles to visit their dying grandmother about two years ago, and he found himself in need of transfusions.
“I will tell you that the blood transfusions they gave him were critical and it took a very long time for the doctors to find blood to match his type.”
Her brother died with the disease, but she plans to donate blood in his honor and implored all who hear Jordan’s story to do the same.
The mayor said blood donors are needed from all communities, adding:
“Part of what we want to do is really focus on increasing blood donations from diverse communities because what we have challenges with are especially the African American community.”
As a gay man, Wiener is prohibited from donating blood unless he abstains from sexual contact with another man for at least three months, per U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines. The senator criticized the agency for not following the science, calling it a form of discrimination against gay and bisexual men.
Last year, Breed donated blood on Wiener’s behalf in a “Give for a Gay” blood drive.
Anyone interested in donating blood or platelets can book an appointment online by visiting the Red Cross website or by calling (800) 733-2767.