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Blood donation restrictions frustrates Nebraska man

Updated: Jun. 19, 2021 at 7:05 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A nationwide blood shortage is a story we’ve been following for a few weeks now.

There’s an increased demand with hospitals starting to perform elective surgeries again. Some who want to donate, simply aren’t able to.

It was just last week when Louis Pell was watching a report on 6 News when he heard this: “The American Red Cross is asking you to roll up your sleeves and donate, Nebraska only has a three-day supply of blood to offer hospitals.”

Immediately, he wanted to do his part.

”I saw there was this huge shortage and I’m sitting there thinking, I want to donate. I’m able to donate, except I’m not allowed to donate,” said Pell.

Twenty-six years ago, Pell and his family were based in London while he was in the military.

“I was over there during that period where they had that, I think it’s called Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease or Mad Cow,” said Pell.

According to the Red Cross website, any person who was in the U.K. for longer than three months between 1980 and 1996 is unable to donate blood because of possible exposure to CJD.

“I represent one family that was there and I have two adult daughters that were there so they are also not allowed to donate. They’re 30 — 30ish — so they’re more or less in their prime, and we’re still saying, ‘Sorry you can’t donate,’ ” Pell said.

The list of requirements to donate blood is short, but the list of restrictions is much longer. Also, it’s not the Red Cross who sets those decisions.

”Most of the restrictions and eligibility requirements are actually set by the FDA, so we’re required to follow that as are all other blood banks are required to follow,” said Josh Murray, Regional Communications Director.

Currently, there is no test for CJD, so Pell and others like him have to continue hearing about the severe blood shortage without being able to help.

“It seems like at this point, that we should be sort of saying, ‘all right, maybe we need to re-look at this,’' said Pell.

The Red Cross would need to petition the FDA to do that.

“There are certain times, certain cases where we do kind of lobby the FDA about trying to ease some restrictions, ease some eligibility requirements, not only when we’re in a shortage, but just in the general times as well,” said Murray.

With only a half-day supply of Type O blood across the nations for hospitals, it’s something Pell hopes they choose to do soon.

To see if you’re eligible to donate, simply call the Red Cross at 1-800-733-2767 or visit their eligibility website.

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