- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 14, 2007

Health officials are asking for blood donors to help replenish supplies that have sharply declined across the region during the holiday season.

“Patients rely on (blood) every day, especially in the D.C. area,” said Shaun Adamec, a spokesman for the American Red Cross. “One thousand units are needed every day to meet the need.” He said current donations are falling short of that mark.

Dr. James Elliott of Doctor’s Community Hospital in Lanham said shortages occur every year, but this year’s shortage is more severe.

“We haven’t postponed any transfusions yet, but we are very concerned,” he said.

Mr. Adamec said people with all blood types are urged to donate, but there is a particular shortage in Types O and B. As of Friday, the organization was reporting its supply of Type O blood as “depleted” and its stock of Type B blood as less than half a day’s supply.

For other blood types, it has between a day and two days’ supply, which is still below normal. Red Cross officials say the optimum blood supply is between 5-7 days’ worth of each blood type.

Mr. Adamec said the drop-off likely occurred because donating blood was a “low priority” with many people during the holiday season.

He said people distracted by shopping and holiday parties tend to forget the importance of blood donations for medical treatments. Transfusions are used not only in surgical procedures but for a wide range of patients, from premature births to burn victims.

Mr. Adamec said most people don’t realize the importance of donating blood until they are faced with a medical crisis.

Teri Scott of Inova Blood Donor Services said the agency is “critically low” in Type O-negative blood, which is a universal type and is used especially in the treatment of premature babies.

“Blood lasts 42 days, and we only keep one day’s supply on the shelves,” she said.

Inova, which supplies blood to 15 hospitals in Northern Virginia, the District and Maryland, reports less than a one-day supply of blood for most blood types.

Officials say that 60 percent of the population is eligible to donate blood, but that less that 5 percent actually does.

Mr. Adamec said the slowdown in the region reflects a “slowdown of donations across the country.” He said blood banks are distributing more blood than they collect, rapidly decreasing the amount of the current supply. The end goal is local and national efficiency.

Those interested in donating blood can do so either by contacting the American Red Cross at 1-800-GIVELIFE, or online at www.my-redcross.org.

Mr. Adamec also says “walk-ins are always welcome.”

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