Mercy St. Louis Confronts Blood Shortage Concerns During Pandemic With Series of Local Blood Drives

    By Kathleen Berger, Executive Producer for Science and Technology
    Jonathan Ferretti’s senior year of high school had challenges beyond what most kids ever have to experience, from cancer treatments to quarantines for his protection against COVID-19. He has acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a blood cancer that starts in bone marrow.

    “Transfusions are very important to us to help keep us healthy,” said Ferretti.

    The need for blood is critical now more than ever.

    “I have never seen it like this before, ever,” said Cheryl Barkhurst, director of donor recruitment for Mercy Hospital St. Louis’ Blood Donor Services.

    Barkhurst described it as the worst emergency blood shortage in years.

    “We’re in a global pandemic. We’re also in a global blood shortage. And so when I say it’s bad, I’m the one that sees the gap,” she explained. “I see the families and then I see what we’re not receiving or collecting from a normal basis.“

    During the pandemic, lives and habits changed in many ways for many reasons.

    “We have not seen the return of our donors to any kind of sense of normalcy. They’re still working from home,” said Barkhurst.

    Mercy Blood Donor Services is mobile. Because so many people are still working from home, Barkhurst said employer-sponsored blood drives have dropped. So Mercy is trying harder to draw blood wherever a large number of people come together.

    “It’s not sitting off of the coast in a cargo ship. We really are fully dependent on people still coming in and donating blood.“

    Mercy Hospital St. Louis is the only hospital in Missouri with its own mobile blood drives and blood supply.

    “We’re not 100% wholly dependent on any outside supplier to make sure that we have those lifesaving products,” said Barkhurst.

    Collections by Mercy Hospital St. Louis’ Blood Donor Program are for Mercy hospitals in the St. Louis region to avoid what feels like a nightmare.

    “The car accident that they transfused 300 units overnight. And I know what I’ve got on the calendar for the next two weeks and it’s like, we’re not close.”

    Barkhurst said Mercy must stay stocked and ready for cancer patients like Jonathan Ferretti.

    “He would have to come in and get platelets, whole blood or plasma probably every other day to every three or four days,” said Julie Ferretti, Jonathan’s mom.

    Donating blood spares families from the painful feeling of hopelessness.

    “It takes an hour and you’re not just donating for my kid, you’re donating for thousands of others,” said Julie Ferretti. “You don’t know what it’s like to see your loved ones suffer because their blood counts are low.”

    To find locations where you can donate blood, click “donate now” on the Mercy link to find times and locations near you.