- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The American Red Cross said yesterday that a shortage in the region’s blood supply has reached a “crisis level.”

“The community has a very severe blood shortage,” said Dr. Gerald Sandler, director of the blood transfusion service at Georgetown University Hospital. “The solution is people have to step up today, tomorrow and the next day and either give another unit if they are regular donors, or, most importantly, this is the time to say, ‘I am going to become a regular blood donor.’ ”

The supply in the Red Cross Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Blood Services Region became “dangerously low” after July Fourth, said hospital spokeswoman Katie McGuire.

A three- to five-day blood supply is considered adequate. The region has only a seven-hour supply of type O and a one-day supply of other blood types, Miss McGuire said.

“We work with hospitals, and when we’re unable to keep an adequate supply, we’re unable to prepare for emergency needs like major car accidents or a lot of people needing surgery,” she said.

Dr. Sandler said he was not aware of any surgery postponements but warns that hospitals might take such precautions if the shortage worsens.

Postponing scheduled surgeries can be a major inconvenience for families, particularly those who have to make child care or work arrangements.

Dr. Sandler said the shortage is the result of two factors: concerns about the safety of the blood supply that limit the number of donors, and summer distractions.

“On a beautiful July day like today, people in the community want to go to the beach with their family,” Dr. Sandler said. “That’s not part of what we need at the blood center.”

In addition, many people find it a convenient time to schedule elective surgeries, so the demand for blood rises, he said.

Miss McGuire said the Red Cross often experiences a severe shortage this time of year.

The organization is thanking donors by giving T-shirts reading, “It’s hip to give,”and holding weekly raffles for $250 gas cards.

Marianne McGucken, director of blood donor services for MedStar Health, said a seasonal shortage this year started about a month earlier than usual.