- The Washington Times - Friday, January 12, 2007

Health officials say the number of blood donations across the region has sharply declined and are asking for help.

“Patients rely on it [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,” and 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 is more severe.

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

Mr. Adamec said the drop-off in donations around the holidays occurred because it was a “low priority.”

He said people distracted by shopping and holiday parties tend to forget the importance of blood donations for medical treatments — everything from premature births to burn victims to surgery.

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

He said people with all blood types are urged to donate, but there is a particular shortage in types O and B.

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.

Mr. Adamec also 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. “Blood lasts 42 days and we only keep 1 day’s supply on the shelves,” she said.

Mr. Adamec said that there is a “slowdown of donations across the country.”

Anyone is encouraged to donate, and you can do so by either contacting the American Red Cross via telephone at 1-800-GIVELIFE, or online at the Red Cross Web site. According to Mr. Adamec, “walk-ins are always welcome.”

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