Red Cross says blooddonations needed

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 29, 2001

In the aftermath of a Sunday, November 11 Washington Post story, several news organizations are issuing erroneous reports that suggest America has more blood than it needs. Nothing could be further from the truth, according to reports from the America Red Cross.

There is a real concern that blood donations could drop off sharply, prompted by these news reports, and endanger the nation's blood supply during the holiday season.

The fact is that today the Gulf Coast Region has a four-day supply of blood on hand, except for the O-negative blood type, of which it has zero.

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Prior to September 11, Alabama only had a one-day supply. The Red Cross was better prepared as the holiday season approached than usual, but this is due to the surge in blood donations by Americans following the September 11 terrorist attacks, but that cushion of extra blood will only last so long.

If another terrorist attack or a natural disaster occurred today that required large amounts of red blood cells to treat victims, the American Red Cross would respond on a national basis. However, more blood would be needed.

At the height of the 2001 holiday season, regional residents face several challenges on the horizon:

The worst thing that could happen is, if people think after reading or hearing these erroneous reports, that there is enough blood and they stop donating. Red Cross has already seen the traditional holiday donor drop off. The American Red Cross urge donors to continue to donate blood.

Only 3.9 percent of eligible Alabamians donate blood. The national average is 5 percent. The blood supply must be replenished daily just as the country constantly replenishes its stockpile of vaccines, drugs and food, regardless of world events. Blood is a perishable commodity and only has a shelf life of 42 days. One tornado, hurricane, natural or manmade disaster in the region could significantly reduce or wipe out our blood supply.

No one who has donated blood since September 11th should feel as if his or her contribution was not needed. When the country was attacked, no one knew what the future held, how many survivors there would be or if there would be other attacks. The Red Cross has learned many lessons in its 50 years in the blood business, so it continued to collect blood to ensure America and the military would be prepared for any eventuality. The Red Cross believed to do otherwise would not have been the best option and possibly could have left the nation vulnerable. The American Red Cross is the only national blood system and ships blood wherever and whenever it's needed in the U.S.

The American Red Cross provides 45 percent of the nation's blood.

Blood products are used to treat cancer patients. Plasma and albumin are used to help and treat critical care patients. Red cells are used in treating trauma victims, premature babies, surgery and anemia patients. Doctors treat people suffering immune deficiencies with globulin.

It is still important that everyone makes the effort, even during the holidays, to donate blood and platelets to help hospital patients, ensure national preparedness and ensure the daily treatment of people with potentially fatal diseases. This selfless act can, and does save lives.