Area Red Cross ready to help if troops need blood

By Trina Trice

While America's troops engage in battle in Iraq, the American Red Cross is ready to help the armed forces if the need arises.

The American Red Cross signed an agreement with the Department of Defense's Armed Services Blood Program Office (ASBPO) for supplemental supply of blood products in the event that its requirements for blood products exceed Department of Defense's collection capabilities.

The agreement helps to ensure that blood is available to American troops if needed.

The Department of Defense operates its own Armed Services Blood Program Office.

"The need for blood products increases significantly as new operations begin or the current operations tempo increase," said Col. Glenn Fitzpatrick, director of the Armed Services Blood Program Office. "In such situations, the ASBPO historically has contracted to obtain blood from civilian agencies."

The Red Cross provides nearly half of the nation's civilian blood supply, and is ready to be an important source of supplementary blood products to the military if needed, according Candice Gulden, communications director for Blood Services Southern Region.

"The Red Cross is proud of its history of providing life-saving blood to the service men and women of this country," said Marsha J. Evans, Red Cross president and CEO and retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral. "With this agreement, the Red Cross promises to continue this critical service whenever and wherever it is needed."

The Red Cross doesn't have to be worried about sharing its blood supply after a scare last month.

A supply of blood that had been collected in the Southern and Tennessee Valley regions contained an unknown white particulate matter. After some individuals had received blood from that supply and had adverse reactions to it, the American Red Cross decided to quarantine some of its blood.

The Red Cross ended its voluntary quarantine of some of its blood supply in late February after consulting with the Food and Drug Administration and conducting laboratory tests.

The Red Cross lifted the ban after discovering the white particulate matter was comprised of normal elements of blood, primarily platelets.

Testing by the Red Cross, Centers for Disease Control, and Emory University and the blood bag manufacturer indicated the particulate is not infectious or a bio-threat agent.

"Our top priority remains the safety and availability of the blood supply and the patients who rely on us to provide lifesaving blood," said a Red Cross official. "We continue to encourage donors to give blood or schedule an appointment to help increase supplies."