Blood supply needs a boost

June 24, 2003|by JENNIFER SMITS

School breaks and summer vacations have led to a decrease in the number of blood donations to the Greater Alleghenies Region of the American Red Cross, which provides blood for Washington County Hospital, as well as hospitals throughout the Tri-State area, a Red Cross official said.

Blood banks historically receive fewer donations in the summer, since 20 percent of donations come from blood drives at college and high school campuses, said Marianne Spampinato, spokesperson for the American Red Cross Regional Headquarters in Johnstown, Pa.

"It's a challenge for us to get these donors back to other sites," she said.

She said busy summer schedules, with many people taking vacations, also lessen donations, while an increase in outdoor and automobile accidents creates a higher demand for blood.


The Red Cross estimates that area hospitals only have about 60 percent to 70 percent of their ideal blood supply supplies, Spampinato said. The Red Cross currently has about a day and a half to two days' supply of all blood types but usually keeps about a week's supply of each blood type, she said.

Spampinato said it takes about 48 hours from the time a person donates blood for the blood to reach a hospital, which is why it is necessary to donate blood now before supplies reach a critical level.

"It's going to take weeks to replenish the blood supply," she said.

Blood has a shelf life of about five to 42 days, depending on the component, Spampinato said. Platelets, which are the most commonly used component, only last about five days, while red blood cells last about 42 days, she said.

Should blood supply levels become too low, the Red Cross would ask area hospitals to postpone elective surgeries until blood inventories are higher, but that rarely occurs, Spampinato said.

"I've been with the Red Cross for 25 years and we've never asked the region to do that," she said.

In addition to area blood drives, this summer the Red Cross will hold the Grateful Life Tour, an event to raise awareness about the need for blood donation. Locally, the tour will stop at Smithsburg Fire Hall on Monday, July 7, from 1 to 7 p.m.

Bloodmobiles planned

Adults ages 17 and older who weigh at least 105 pounds are eligible to donate blood. Area residents can donate blood this week at the following locations in Washington County:

  • Today: Western Maryland Hospital Center, noon to 5 p.m.

  • Wednesday, June 25: Valley Mall, noon to 6 p.m.

  • Friday, June 27: Robinwood Medical Center, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

  • Saturday, June 28: South Mountain Rod and Gun Club on Md. 77, two miles north of Smithsburg, 9 a.m to 3 p.m.
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