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Blood supplies need boost

July 14, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Donating blood has never been more important - not just to the American Red Cross but to the countless hospitals and researchers who depend on an uninterrupted supply to save lives.

"There is a big misconception out there about who needs the blood that is donated to the Red Cross," said Marianne Spampinato, a spokesman for the Greater Alleghenies Region based in Johnstown, Pa.

The Red Cross merely is the conduit from donor to patient, Spampinato said. When blood supplies dwindle, real people suffer.

Spampinato chaired an informational meeting July 9 at the Plaza Hotel in Hagerstown so the word could get out on how important blood donors are to the health of the entire medical community.

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Julie Barr-Strasburg, director of the Washington County Red Cross Chapter, said donations were very low in June. While summer months usually are slow, this June was slower than usual, she said.

Overall, in the 100 counties that make up the Greater Alleghenies Region, donations also fell short during the fiscal year that ended June 30. While 238,935 units were collected during that year, thousands more units were needed, Spampinato said.

Efforts to protect the integrity of donated blood have led to increased security measures throughout the United States. Some of those measures have caused some donors to be turned away.

When new identification regulations go into effect in January 2004, Barr-Strasburg fears that some people may have to be deferred.

"A photo ID or comparable identification will be necessary then to comply with Food and Drug Administration rules," she said. While most adults have photo ID driver's licenses, some people who don't drive but who are regular blood donors may be left out, she said.

Efforts to boost blood donations have taken many forms, Barr-Strasburg said, way beyond serving doughnuts and coffee to donors.

"In Washington County, all six public high schools and some private schools host bloodmobiles," she said. And for such efforts, those schools are eligible for scholarship money.

Donors must be 17 or older (there is no cutoff age), weigh at least 105 pounds, be in generally good health and feeling well on the day of donation, and must have eaten three to four hours before donating.

Donors can give blood every 56 days.

Donors may not give blood if they have colds, the flu or any type of infection. Allergies are no hindrance unless the donor is currently having symptoms.

You also may donate if you are diabetic, epileptic, are being treated for high blood pressure or taking other medications, as long as the Red Cross nurse is notified at the site.

Anyone with eligibility questions may call 800-542-5663. The local chapter can be reached at 301-739-0717.

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