- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 26, 2002

When Americans felt helpless in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, many gave blood but it was not enough to push donations up to the necessary national levels.

This summer, national blood banks and public health organizations are making a pitch for all eligible Americans to donate.

On Oct. 15, one of the strongest donation days for the Red Cross, 300,000 donors gave blood nationally. That rate had fallen to only 60,000 donations a week and a half ago.

The donation crunch has hit 80 regional hospitals particularly hard, leaving them with less than a one-day supply of blood for some blood types, said Joy Jensen, marketing and communications manger for the Red Cross Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Blood Services Region.

The Chesapeake Red Cross donation district, which supplies blood to hospitals in the capital, Northern Virginia, Maryland and two southeastern Pennsylvanian counties, urged a donation increase beginning June 11. There will also be a national call for donations by the American Association of Blood Banks, the American Red Cross, America's Blood Centers, the American Public Health Association and the American Hospital Association.

So far, there has not been a significant regional increase in donations. The collection rate is still only supplying 70 percent to 80 percent of the amount needed.

This flat response has puzzled Red Cross officials, Miss Jensen said. While a slight shortage is common during the summer, with student donors out of school and professional donors on vacation, this is a more crucial shortage.

Public misconceptions could be behind current supply shortages across the country, the national public health and blood-lending organizations said. According to a recent telephone survey of 1,005 adults, most Americans lack basic knowledge about blood donations.

For example, many donors do not know they can give blood every two months. About one in four of the poll respondents knew adults can give blood up to six times a year.

Another concern relates to blood transfusions: One is needed every two seconds, but only 9 percent of poll respondents knew how often blood is used.

Without an immediate increase in donations, hospitals will have to focus on supplying blood for emergency purposes only. Elective surgeries will have to be postponed until donations increase, Miss Jensen said.

The Fourth of July holiday weekend is of particular concern due to the usual rise in medical emergencies on holidays, said Dr. Rita Reik, senior medical officer of the American Red Cross Biomedical Services.

Dr. Reik hopes Independence Day celebrations will connect patriotic feeling with the desire to make a difference.

"Americans can show support for our American heroes, our policeman and our firemen by letting them know there will be blood waiting for them," Dr. Reik said.


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