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VALLEY FOCUS | Valleywide

Red Cross Desperate for Blood Donations

June 24, 1998|MICHAEL BAKER

Citing a nationwide shortage, the American Red Cross issued an emergency appeal Tuesday for help in stockpiling "universal" blood-donor supplies.

The Red Cross of Southern California currently has only 7% of needed O-negative blood, the "universal" donor-blood used in emergencies, and only 12% of the desired inventory of O-positive blood, the blood type of nearly half the population, said spokesman Marc Jackson.

Currently, Red Cross centers outside of California supply about 40% of the blood being used in the 150 hospitals the agency services in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties.

"Now the supply is down nationwide and it's real scary," Jackson said.

"If you took all the Red Cross centers around the country and combined their supplies it would end up that they only have a day-and-a-half supply."

If a large-scale emergency happened right now, the Red Cross would be hard pressed to deal with the situation, Jackson said.

There is a constant need of 1,500 units of O-positive and 300 units of O-negative, Jackson said.

On Tuesday, the Red Cross only had 173 units of O-positive and 21 units of O-negative.

A unit is equal to roughly a pint of blood.

"To date, no surgeries or other medical procedures at hospitals served by the American Red Cross Blood Services have been canceled, but if donations do not increase, nonemergency procedures may have to be postponed in the near future," said Rich Krieg, the acting chief executive in Southern California.

Blood donations generally plummet during three-day weekends, Jackson said. With Independence Day falling on Saturday this year, blood supplies are expected to dwindle unless donations start to increase significantly.

The Red Cross is also asking for donations of B-positive blood, which is at 33% of the desired inventory, and B-negative blood, which is at 12% of what is needed.

To give blood, donors must be 17 or older, weigh at least 110 pounds, be in good health and not at risk for HIV.

To donate blood, call (800) 448-3543.

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