01/29/07 — Red Cross faces blood shortage

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Red Cross faces blood shortage

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 29, 2007 1:48 PM

The American Red Cross is making a push for blood donors, with one high school hosting a drive today and incentives being offered for everyone who donates in the coming weeks.

As of Friday, the overall blood inventory level for the region was at critical status, said Samia Garner, Wayne County chapter blood services director. Blood types O positive and negative, B positive and negative, and A negative were in "emergency status," she said.

"We had less than a day and a half supply on hand, and that's extremely dangerous," she said this morning.

"It's so hard to make people understand. Typically to be in a safe situation, we would have three days' supply on hand. That way, should the hospital be in an emergency situation, we could ship it out quickly."

Blood has a shelf life of 42 days, Ms. Garner said, so the need to replenish the supply is ongoing.

The local Red Cross tries to be proactive in getting the word out, director Chuck Waller said.

"We have never seen an actual blood shortage," he said. "We try to remain vigilant to make sure we never do. We encourage folks that they can donate every 56 days -- that's how long it takes the body to replenish the blood supply. If they would just donate that one extra time per year, we could eliminate the ongoing need for blood entirely."

Waller said educating the public is vital, since only an estimated 5 percent of the eligible population donates blood.

"One of the things we do here is, every 56 days when folks come in, we'll pre-appoint them for the next 56 days, so we're trying to be proactive with it," he said.

A popular incentive from last year is again being used to entice donors to give, Ms. Garner said.

"We're having our ACC basketball challenge and every donor can enter to win," she said. There will be three basketballs given away -- from Duke, State and UNC -- all signed by the coaches and players.

"This is only in Wayne County, so all three basketballs will be won here," she explained.

The contest began in January and will run for 56 days, not coincidentally the time period between blood donations.

"At the end of the day, it's just a nice way for us to say thank you for giving blood," she said.

Collections this year have been tough, with January being a particularly slow month, Ms. Garner said. Severe weather in many states forced the cancellation of blood drives, but such was not the case in Wayne County.

"We're dumbfounded because the weather's been nice. We're all a little perplexed as to why that happened," she said.

One area high school, Charles B. Aycock, is hosting a blood drive today from 2 to 6:30 p.m., targeting O blood types.

"Type O blood can be used in an emergency when they don't know the type. That's why we run short of Type O all the time," Ms. Garner said.

But that is not to say that other types will not be accepted, she said, "and if you get out there, we would welcome you with open arms."

It's real easy to be a hero, Ms. Garner said. "You have just got to roll up your sleeves.

"Each unit (of blood) we collect has the potential to save three lives. What better work could you do in an hour?"