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Blood supplies falling to critical levels in Tri-State area

November 28, 2001

Blood supplies falling to critical levels in Tri-State area



By KEVIN VERZICH / Staff Writer


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - After having to destroy parts of its blood supply following a flood of donations after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the local American Red Cross says blood supplies in the region are falling to critical levels again.

Tina Stover, donor resources director for the Greater Allegheny Region of the Red Cross, said supplies of B-negative blood and platelets are reaching critically low levels.

"The public needs to understand how the donated blood is used," Stover said. "When we receive a donated pint of blood, it is broken down into three components: red blood cells, platelets and plasma. Out of all the units that were collected nationwide following Sept. 11, at least one component of every unit was used."

Stover said red blood cells are used for trauma victims and blood transfusions, plasma is used primarily for burn victims, and platelets are used to treat cancer patients and those undergoing surgery.

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As diverse as the uses, the blood components have different shelf lives. Stover said red blood cells normally have a shelf life of 42 days and plasma can be frozen for an extended shelf life. However, platelets have a shelf life of only five days.

"For one platelet treatment, it takes 10 donors," Stover said. "We are currently in critical need of platelets across the region. We need people to continue to donate for the cancer and surgery patients."

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, donations to the Red Cross soared to record levels.

Stover said the Greater Allegheny Region acted responsibly by cutting off donations at 120 percent. This means if a drive's goal was to collect 100 units, only 120 donations were accepted.

"We acted conservatively and collected only what we felt our region could use," Stover said.

Recent reports indicate that the Red Cross destroyed unused units of blood. However, Stover said the Red Cross used everything that it could.

Stover said those reports have contributed to lower blood levels now. She said the public may think the Red Cross is not using the supplies of blood it has and are not giving any more blood.

Other low blood levels include the blood type B-negative, and the universal blood types of O-negative and O-positive.

Jennifer Mansfield, regional public relations specialist for the Greater Allegheny Region, said only 3 percent regionally of the blood donated following Sept. 11 was incinerated. She said that number was only 8 percent nationally.

"The only component that we really had a problem with being outdated was the red blood cells," Mansfield said. "The plasma has a shelf life of one year frozen, and we used most of the platelets."

Those wishing to make donation can do so every Wednesday at the Valley Mall in Hagerstown from noon to 6 p.m.

For information, contact the Greater Allegheny Region of the American Red Cross at 1-800-732-0382.

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