NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — Our bodies cannot operate without oxygen moving throughout. The way it’s carried is in our blood.

And right now, there’s a problem with this.

It’s beyond a shortage. That’s the description of the blood supply here, and nationwide, from regional director of Vitalant Jennifer Bredahl, the nation’s largest independent, nonprofit blood services provider.

That message is echoed by the director of Lab Services at Sanford Hospital.

“We are experiencing an unprecedented blood product shortage, particularly for blood group O negative,” said Amanda Sagfveen, director of Lab Operations for Sanford Bismarck.

Why O negative blood? Because it’s the universal blood type that can be given to anyone. If a person’s blood type is not known in an emergency situation, O negative will work.

While that’s good news, only 7 percent of the population has O negative blood.

“O negative donors are highly recommended to come in right now and become a regular donor,” said Bredahl.

Muriel Soule is one of the regular blood donors that blood banks depend on; she just donated for the 69th time.

“I started when my kids were in organizations that asked for blood drives and have been going ever since,” said Soule.

The shelf life of whole blood is 42 days, and for blood platelets, it’s just seven days — so a regular ongoing supply of blood is critical for all who will need it.