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Blood Banks Appeal for Donations

June 26, 2002|NERISSA PACIO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

U.S. blood bank and public health leaders have issued a national appeal for blood donations in the face of shortages that have left some parts of the country in a state of emergency, with less than a one-day supply.

Nearly half of the regions supplied by American Red Cross Blood Services and a third of the blood banks supplied by America's Blood Centers are suffering from shortages, accounting for half of the nation's blood suppliers, the Red Cross Blood Services said.

The East and Southeast have been hit the hardest by the shortage, said Dr. Ross Herron, medical director for the American Red Cross Blood Services Southern California Region. But because the region imports more than 45% of its blood from out-of-state centers, the scarcity could mean shortages at local hospitals supplied largely by the Red Cross in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties.

"Our supplies are OK right now, but we don't collect enough blood here to be self-sufficient," Herron said.

Although supplies were high after Sept. 11, the blood donated at that time has either been transfused or expired. Red blood cells last 42 days and platelets are good for only five days. On average, 34,000 units of red blood cells, or about 34,000 pints, are needed per day for patients in the U.S., according to the American Red Cross.

The demand for blood now outpaces supply as medical procedures become more sophisticated and aging baby-boomers undergo more surgeries, Herron said.

Doctors said shortages typically occur during holidays or summer months when donors are on vacation and when schools, where many blood drives take place, aren't in full session.

"If you don't have blood, you can't treat patients," said Dr. Janice Nelson, medical director of transfusion medicine at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. "By virtue of the fact that the rest of the nation is declaring shortages, I'm cautious that the impact on us may be imminent."

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