Durban - Critically ill patients are being forced to wait for urgent surgery because of a lack of blood supplies throughout the country.
Durban resident Bev Duncan, 49, was scheduled to have brain surgery on January 7 – her birthday – to have a tumour removed.
However, because of the shortage she has yet to have the operation.
Another patient, Wally Griffiths of Glenashley who has prostate cancer, could not get the two units of blood needed to relieve his condition.
Blood stocks had been low for the past few months but the situation had become critical, said Sifiso Khoza of the South African National Blood Service (SANBS).
The SANBS gets about 40 percent of its blood supply from schools and anticipates that levels will increase when schools reopen. He said SANBS had 1.8 days worth of blood for KZN while there was 2.7 days worth of blood nationally.
Duncan’s close friend, Duncan Good, with whom she is staying, put out a plea on Facebook asking people to donate lifesaving blood so that Duncan, and countless others like her, stood a chance.
“She was diagnosed with the brain tumour in November and scheduled for surgery on January 7. She was prepped but then told there was a blood shortage and it couldn’t go ahead,” he said. “On Thursday (January 9) she was prepped again but there was still no blood.”
In an effort to speed up the process, Good and some friends organised a blood drive yesterday and put out the appeal on Facebook.
“We’ve had an incredible response. People from all over the world have contacted friends in South Africa and there was such a turnout,” he said.
“Bev needs about three or four units of blood to be on standby for the operation. When she’s got the sufficient amount, the rest will go to the blood bank for other patients. Hopefully she’ll be able to have the surgery this week.”
By midday yesterday, enough blood had been collected for Duncan and more donations were still coming in.
Wally Griffiths’s wife, Helene, said that, although his was not a life or death situation, the blood improved his living conditions, giving him more energy.
“At the moment he is very lethargic and sleeps all the time.”
Griffiths has been receiving blood on and off since his diagnosis in 2010. “We’ve never had a problem before. Wally had a blood test on Wednesday and was told he needed blood. After radiation on Friday he was told there is no blood available and that there were 60 patients ahead of him,” Helene said.
Life Entabeni Hospital regional marketing manager, Leanne Nyiri, said the current blood shortage had affected supplies of Group O and Group B stocks at the hospital.
“As a result, a limited number of cases have had to be rescheduled. Emergency cases have, however, been given priority,” said Nyiri. She asked people to donate more blood at their nearest SANBS facility.
The general manager of Netcare Umhlanga Hospital, Dr Burton Shinners, said blood shortages were “cyclical” and it was not unusual to have a shortage at this time of year because many regular donors were on holiday.