After a weekend ‘perfect storm’ of need, Intermountain hospital raced to find blood

Hospitals in Utah and across the nation may cancel surgeries due to blood shortages.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Karl Ebeling who goes by “farmer Karl,” makes one of his regular blood donations, something he has been doing for 35 years. Phlebotomist Erica Millet with the American Red Cross assists him inside a mobile unit parked at the Sandy Library on Tuesday, June 29, 2021.

One of Utah’s largest hospitals nearly ran out of donated blood this weekend, and on Monday delayed at least one surgery to avoid running out again.

Now health experts are pleading for donors in coming weeks as blood shortages sweep the nation.

“This weekend we had a point where we didn’t have a single O-positive unit on our shelf. That was the scariest time in my 30 years of transfusion medicine,” said Dr. Sarah Illstrup, who oversees clinical pathology at Intermountain Medical Center.

Staff at the hospital spent hours scrounging for more blood at other Utah hospitals, with health centers from Logan to St. George shuttling blood to the Murray hospital — even if they could only spare a couple of units from their own depleted supplies, Illstrup said.

Now Utah hospitals are looking at delaying some elective surgeries because they aren’t sure they’ll have enough blood. After the weekend shortfall, Intermountain Medical Center on Monday canceled one surgery “out of an abundance of caution,” said spokesman Jess Gomez.

“There’s a critical need,” Gomez said. “We typically see a lot of traumas during the summer as people are out and about.”

But blood donations slowed dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic. “From a blood supply standpoint, we’re still kind of recovering,” Gomez said.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The American Red Cross takes blood donations by appointment during a stop at the Sandy Library on Tuesday, June 29, 2021. The American Red Cross continues to experience a severe blood shortage that is negatively affecting blood product availability in Utah and in the U.S.

The demand for blood spikes each year in summer, when people are traveling, working outside and recreating more. But this year demand may be particularly high because so many patients put off surgeries until a vaccine for the coronavirus was developed, said Deborah Jordan, spokeswoman for ARUP Blood Services.

After those delays, Illstrup said, some of those procedures have become more urgent, driving up the demand for blood even higher than the usual summer rush.

This weekend was “a perfect storm” at Intermountain, Illstrup said, with a high number of trauma and surgical patients — and then a disproportionate share of them happened to be O-positive.

O-positive blood can be transfused to anyone who has a protein called the Rh factor (”positive” blood types), whether their blood type is A, B or AB, which makes it useful for lots of different patients. But patients with O-positive blood — the most common blood type — only can receive type O blood if they need a transfusion.

As Intermountain’s operating tables happened to fill up with type-O patients on Saturday and Sunday, doctors and nurses emptied the shelves.

“There is a call to action for 0s — both 0-positive blood and 0-negative blood,” Jordan said. “Both are used for traumas — motor vehicle accidents, gunshot wounds, burns, labor and delivery hemorrhages, heart surgeries, workplace accidents, or falling off a ladder.”

They also are needed for transplant surgeries and other procedures that can’t wait, she said.

The American Red Cross this week also put out an urgent national plea for donations, saying some hospitals already are delaying surgeries.

“As a result of the blood shortage, some hospitals are being forced to slow the pace of elective surgeries until the blood supply stabilizes, delaying crucial patient care,” Red Cross staff wrote in a news statement Monday.

“Donors of all blood types — especially type O and those giving platelets — are urged to make an appointment to give now and help ensure hospital shelves are stocked with blood products over the Fourth of July holiday and beyond,” Red Cross staff wrote.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Phlebotomists Felipe Trevizo with the American Red Cross talks about how a recent blood collection will be divided into red blood cells, plasma and platelets as a small team takes blood donations in a mobile unit parked at the Sandy Library on Tuesday, June 29, 2021. The American Red Cross continues to experience a severe blood shortage that is negatively affecting blood product availability in Utah and in the U.S.

ARUP Laboratories in Salt Lake City is rewarding donors with gift cards, barbecue kits, and drawings for other prizes. To sign up, visit https://www.utahblood.org/ or call 801-584-5272.

The American Red Cross has planned a number of blood drives, or donors can schedule an appointment on the Red Cross Blood Donor App, by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Those who donate July 1 through 6 can receive a complimentary hat by mail; those who donate from July 7 through 31 will receive a $10 Amazon.com gift card by email, plus a chance to enter a drawing for other prizes.

But even more importantly, Illstrup said, the public should try to avoid needing a transfusion in the first place.

“This is not the time to be taking risks,” she said.

Red Cross blood drive dates and locations along the Wasatch Front are as follows:

Davis County

Hill Air Force Base

June 30: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m., 2AVS, 5837 D Ave., Bldg. 150

July 10: 9 a.m. - 2 p.m., Hill Air Force Base Reserves, 5711 E Ave, Base Chapel Bldg. 445


July 15: 2 p.m. - 8 p.m., Kaysville Utah Crestwood Stake, 1039 E. Crestwood Rd.


July 8: 2:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m., Syracuse Utah Bluff Stake, 700 S. 2500 West

Salt Lake County


July 13: 9 a.m. - 3 p.m., Bluffdale City, 2222 W. 14400 South


June 30: 9 a.m. - 3 p.m., Progressive Leasing, 256 West Data Dr.

July 1: 2 p.m. - 7 p.m., Draper Corner Canyon Stake, 13366 S. 1300 East

July 7: 2 p.m. - 8 p.m., Draper Utah South Mountain Stake - Traverse Point Building, 272 E. Traverse Point Dr


June 29: 2 p.m. - 7 p.m., Copperwood Apartment Homes, 5657 Barns Rd.


July 1: 8 a.m. - 2 p.m., Intermountain Healthcare, 5245 South College Dr.

July 8: 2 p.m. - 8 p.m., Murray Utah Stake, 363 E. Vine St.

July 14: 8:30 a.m. - 3 p.m., Nelson Laboratories, 6280 S. Redwood Rd.

July 14: 8:30 a.m. - 3 p.m., 3M Health Information Systems, 575 West Murray Blvd.

Salt Lake City

July 2: 1 p.m. - 6 p.m., ARC, 6616 S. 900 East

July 8: 3:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m., Kearns Utah Central Stake, 5823 S. 4800 W

July 13: 9 a.m. - 2 p.m., Progrexion, 257 E. 200 south

July 13: 9 a.m. - 3 p.m., Teleperformance USA, 1991 S. 4650 West

July 13: 12 p.m. - 5 p.m., Ensign College, 95 N. 300 West

July 15: 1 p.m. - 7 p.m., SaltFire Brewing Company, 2199 S. West Temple

July 15: 3 p.m. - 8 p.m., Bennion Stake, 6550 S. 2700 West


June 29: 1 p.m. - 6 p.m., Sandy Library, 10100 Petunia Way

South Jordan

July 1: 2 p.m. - 8 p.m., South Jordan Utah Garden Park Stake, 11543 South Keystone Dr.

West Jordan

July 1: 12 p.m. - 6 p.m., Jordan Landing Plaza, 3646 Center View Way

July 9: 2 p.m. - 8 p.m., West Jordan Stake, 7000 S. 2700 West

West Valley City

July 6: 9 a.m. - 2 p.m., Motorola Solutions, 4625 West Lake Park Blvd.

Utah County


July 1: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Alpine Utah West Stake, 327 Long Dr.

Cedar Hills

July 1: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Cedar Hills Utah Stake/Bayhill Bldg., 10351 N. Bayhill Dr.

Eagle Mountain

July 1: 2 p.m. - 8 p.m., Eagle Mountain Utah North Stake, 8732 North Desert Canyon Rd.

July 12: 9 a.m. - 3 p.m., City Center, 1650 E. Stagecoach Run

July 15: 1 p.m. - 7 p.m., Eagle Mountain Utah East Stake, 4105 E. Smith Ranch Rd.


July 12: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Highland Utah Stake/Avonmore Bldg., 5848 W. 11000 North

July 15: 2 p.m. - 8 p.m., Highland Utah East Stake, 4679 W. 11000 North


July 6: 1 p.m. - 7 p.m., Lehi Utah Thanksgiving Stake, 3145 W. Mayflower

July 14: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Xyngular, 1250 E. 200 South, 2C

July 14: 12 p.m. - 6 p.m., Young Living Essential Oils, Hilton Garden Inn - Lehi, 3150 N. Hotel Loop

July 14: 1 p.m. - 7 p.m., Lehi Utah Pheasant Point Stake, 890 W. 3070 North


July 2: 2 p.m. - 8 p.m., Vineyard Utah Grove Park Stake, 90 N. 600 West

July 6: 3 p.m. - 8 p.m., Orem Sharon Park Stake, 225 E. 200 North

July 12: 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., Canyon Park Tech Center, 1301 Research Way

July 13: 2 p.m. - 8 p.m., Orem Utah Vineyard Stake, 422 E. Holdaway Dr.


June 29: 2 p.m. - 7 p.m., Payson West Stake Center, 435 S. 800 West

Pleasant Grove

July 10: 8 a.m. - 2 p.m., Pleasant Grove Utah Manila Stake, 3396 N. 900 West

July 10: 8 a.m. - 2 p.m., Pleasant Grove Manila Creek Stake, 1320 W. 3540 North


June 29: 12 p.m. - 6 p.m., Wilkinson Center, Wilkinson Center, BYU Campus

June 30: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m., Provo Recreation Center, 320 West 500 North

July 6: 9 a.m. - 3 p.m., EnerBankUSA, 1656 S East Bay Blvd, Bldg., F Suite F375

July 8: 2 p.m. - 8 p.m., University Parkway Center, 35 East University Parkway

July 8: 3 p.m. - 8 p.m., Provo Utah Married Student 1st Stake, 1600 N. 900 E

July 12: 12 p.m. - 6 p.m., Wilkinson Center, Wilkinson Center, BYU Campus

July 12: 2 p.m. - 8 p.m., Provo Utah Young Single Adult 12th Stake, 100 w 800 n

July 12: 2 p.m. - 8 p.m., Springville Utah YSA Stake, 1021 South 500 West


July 15: 2 p.m. - 8 p.m., Salem Utah West Stake, 20 S. Main Street


June 30: 2 p.m. - 7 p.m., Springville Utah Stake, 245 S. 600 E.

July 15: 2 p.m. - 7 p.m., Hobblecreek Stake, 495 S. Canyon Dr. (1300 E)

July 15: 2 p.m. - 7 p.m., Hobblecreek West Stake, 555 South 600 East



July 1: 2 p.m. - 8 p.m., Hunstville Utah Stake, 6450 E. 1900 N.


July 14: 1 p.m. - 7 p.m., Hooper Utah Pioneer Trail Stake, 4979 South 5100 West


July 6: 11:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Capstone Nutrition, 900 S. Depot Dr.

July 6: 2 p.m. - 6 p.m., Northern Utah Rehabilitation Hospital, 5825 Harrison Blvd.

July 6: 4 p.m. - 9 p.m., Ogden Utah YSA 2nd Stake Center, 880 Harrison Blvd.

July 7: 11:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., Weber County School District Offices, 5320 Adams Avenue Parkway

July 8: 2:45 p.m. - 7:30 p.m., North Ogden Utah Stake, 368 E Elberta

July 13: 12 p.m. - 6 p.m., St. Paul Lutheran Church, 3329 Harrison Blvd.


July 9: 2 p.m. - 7 p.m., Riverdale Community Center, 4360 South Parker Dr.


July 12: 1 p.m. - 6 p.m., Weber County Library - Roy, 2039 West 4000 South