PITTSTON TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The nation is dealing with more than just a COVID crisis, it also has a blood crisis on its hands.

The blood shortage is considered the worst in more than a decade.

Miller-Keystone Blood Center, Account Manager, Kathy Rowinski, says, “This is where we would normally keep our blood donations for the day.”

But this refrigerator unit at Miller-Keystone Blood Center near Pittston is empty. The holidays and winter often team up to hold down blood collections, but this year there’s a third problem: COVID.

“Typically, we would be able to do a lot more blood drives than we’re doing. If one of our employees tests positive or is exposed to covid, we may have to quarantine all of our employees. So that’s a challenge,” said Rowinski.

That’s what happened last Saturday costing the exclusive blood supplier to Geisinger, Lehigh Valley Health Network, and St. Luke’s Hospital a day of donations.

It’s much more than whole blood that’s in need. This machine will be used for special donations of plasma, platelets and double red cells to help meet the urgent need of local hospitals.

“We hope to meet all of our hospital needs but it gets to the point where some hospitals decide that they have to cancel elective surgeries,” said Rowinski.

Some procedures can’t wait as a Taylor family experienced in 2011.

“Not just red blood cells. It was a complete exchange transfusion,” said Becci Buffton, whose daughter needed blood transfusions.

Becci Buffton’s daughter, Stella, needed several units of blood at three days old because of an autoimmune disorder.

“It could have caused severe brain damage. It could have caused deafness, blindness, or cerebral palsy,” Buffton said.

Hiller said, “So a lot was at stake.” Bluffton replied, “A lot was at stake. A lot was at stake.”

Buffton’s daughter is now a healthy 10-year-old.

“If that blood wasn’t there, you know, we, it would have been a very different ending,” Buffton said.

It’s why Rowinski is making this plea.

“Donate now and donate every 56 days so that we keep a safe and stable blood supply on the shelves,” Rowinski said.

Miller-Keystone Blood Center holds appointment-only donations of blood and plasma on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at its center.

To learn more about that head to https://www.giveapint.org/, and Miller-Keystone’s ‘Adopt a Day’ Donation program for businesses and organizations.

Those interested can also call 1-800-223-6667.