Amid Rising Gun Violence, Chicago Hospitals Desperately Seek Blood Donations

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"Amid Rising Gun Violence, Chicago Hospitals Desperately Seek Blood Donations"

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As Chicago continues to grapple with a spike in gun violence this summer, its medical facilities are feeling the strain. St. Bernard Hospital — located in Englewood, one of the neighborhoods at the epicenter of Chicago’s gun violence and gang activity — will host a blood drive on July 19, linking its supply shortages to the increase in violence.

An ample supply of blood is crucial for St. Bernard because it serves many victims of gun violence. According to data from the Chicago Police Department, Englewood ranks second in neighborhoods with the most violent crime. Over the past three months, 268 instances have been reported. Englewood also has one of the worst rates of shooting victims per capita: it has 30,000 residents, and so far, 50 people have been shot this year, or one shooting per 600 residents.

The city’s gun violence swells during the summer and creates a higher demand. The hospital’s spokesman, Derek Michaels, explained that getting more people to donate soon is “imperative.”

“We may get someone who’s been shot in the arm or a leg, and they’re treated here and discharged. But that still takes blood,” Michaels said. “And this summer we’ve been seeing unfortunately quite a few of those. On a weekly basis we see quite a number of gunshot victims.”

The hospital reported that it only obtained 16 donations at its last blood drive.

According to LifeSource, a Chicago-area organization that collects data on blood donors and runs blood drives, less than five percent of blood donors in the Chicago area are blacks and Latinos. That’s an issue because minority populations often have specific blood needs. According to Massachusetts General Hospital, minority populations are more likely to have the rarer blood types O and B — and they’re also more likely to contract sickle cell disease, which requires large blood transfusions for adequate treatment. And the shootings have taken a particular toll on black and Latino populations: Nearly 90 percent of murders and violent crimes occur in predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods on the south and west sides.

St. Bernard’s woes are reflective of nationwide blood shortages this summer. On Wednesday, the American Red Cross announced an emergency request for blood donations, reporting that it received about 50,000 fewer donations than usual in June, which amounts to a 10 percent drop in donations.

Marina Fang is an intern for ThinkProgress.

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