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Blood supply critically low

September 14, 2000

Blood supply critically low



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer


For the second time in three months the American Red Cross is asking the public for helping in filling its blood banks.

The local blood supply remains critically low, Teresa Elwood, American Red Cross blood services director, said.

In Hagerstown, the American Red Cross needs a three-day supply of blood but currently has less than a one-day supply of most blood types, she said.

Elwood said the supply is low because donations declined over the summer. Donations traditionally dip during the summer months because people are preoccupied or away on vacations, she said.

New rules for the blood donor process also has contributed to the decline in blood supply, she said.

Previously, a potential donor was tested to determine the iron content of his or her blood by having an ear or fingertip pricked. If the test showed sufficient iron in the blood, the donation was permitted, Elwood said.

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A federal mandate now requires Red Cross workers to use only the fingertip test because it is more accurate, she said.

The increased accuracy means some would-be donors likely will be turned away because their blood doesn't contain enough iron, according to Elwood.

"We're seeing a 20 to 30 percent deferral rate," she said.

This has meant that the Hagerstown branch of the American Red Cross must attract 20 to 30 more donors than normal to make up for the losses, she said.

So far, the agency has been unable to do this, she said.

All types of blood are needed, but particularly O-positive and O-negative, Elwood said.

Anyone who is at least 17 years old, weighs at least 105 pounds and is in reasonably good health is eligible to donate blood. Donors may donate one pint of blood about every 56 days.

"We tell people that when they give blood they are doing a wonderful thing," Elwood said. "Every time they give blood they are saving three to four lives."

People can give blood at any of the following sites:

- Today from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Hancock Community Center

- Friday, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Tomahawk Elementary School, Hedgesville, W.Va.

- Sept. 19, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the American Legion Post 42 in Hagerstown

- Sept. 20, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hagerstown Community College

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