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Red Cross is low on blood

Weather, holidays affect donations

Weather, holidays affect donations

December 31, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

As a result of a scarcity of donations over the holidays, the local blood supply is low, an American Red Cross spokeswoman said Tuesday.

There is only a quarter day supply of type-O blood, the universal donor, for 80 hospitals and 10 trauma centers served by The Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Blood Services Region of the American Red Cross, said Tracy M. Laubach, the region's director of marketing and communications.

The region covers most of Maryland except the Eastern Shore, Northern Virginia, Washington and York and Adams counties in Pennsylvania,

"It's empty," she said.

Ideally, she said, the Red Cross would have five to seven days worth of blood inventory, but now, she said, as soon as the blood is placed on the shelves it is taken to someone who needs it.

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"Patient needs don't stop just because it's Christmas Eve," she said.

On Dec. 23, the Red Cross set a goal to collect 904 pints, or units, of blood, which is about 400 units less than it normally aims to collect, but it collected only 422 pints of blood, she said. On Christmas Eve its goal was the same, but 334 units of blood were collected, Laubach said.

Since Dec. 23 the Red Cross has collected 65 percent of the units of blood needed to meet the needs of trauma victims, cancer patients and others in need at local hospitals, Laubach said.

She said the region has been short on blood since the summer and even that supply was depleted by Hurricane Isabel.

Between the two snowstorms in December, Laubach said, the Red Cross lost 1,200 units of blood it had expected to receive, but could not get because schools or other venues planning to hold blood drives closed because of the weather.

"People think everyone else is solving the problem. They don't think one unit will make a difference," she said.

But one unit can make a difference, she said. For example, Laubach said, she works with a boy who has sickle cell anemia and needs nine units of blood every six weeks. She said if he doesn't get that transfusion he wakes up in the middle of the night in excruciating pain.

Laubach offered another example of why donating blood is important: With the raised terror alerts across the country, it's important that the Red Cross has a supply of blood if it is needed.

"The real blood heroes of Sept. 11 were those who donated on Sept. 4th and 5th," she said.

The American Red Cross encourages whole blood donors to call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE and platelet donors to call 1-800-272-2123 for appointments and further information.

To be eligible to give blood, donors must:

-- Be in generally good health

-- Be at least 17 years old. In Maryland a donor can be 16 years old with a written note of parental consent.

-- Have not received a tattoo within the past year.

-- Have not donated blood within the past 56 days.

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