Donations needed to alleviate shortages

By Shannon Jenkins

With supplies at "critically low levels" the American Red Cross is out for blood - and platelets.

Because schools are out and people are traveling, Red Cross representatives said blood shortages usually occur during the summer.

The organization's Southern Region Headquarters in Atlanta recently announced that inventories for type O and B blood are at 12 to 18 hours supply.

"We try to have at least a three-day supply of all blood types," said Cammie Barnes, a Red Cross spokeswoman.

Having less than a one-day supply, she said, could mean bad news for any of the 140 hospitals the organization distributes blood to in the Southern region.

"When it gets this low, we have to start limiting supplies to hospitals," she said. "That's dangerous for patients."

To meet patients' needs in Georgia, the Red Cross must attract 1,200 blood donors every weekday.

According to the Red Cross, "type O blood is extremely important as it can be given to anyone regardless of their blood type and is extensively used in hospital emergency rooms when there is not time to type a patient's blood." The Red Cross is especially urging anyone with this blood type to donate immediately since these people make up about 45 percent of the population.

And when it comes to the general population, Barnes said 60 percent are eligible to donate blood but only 3.5 percent do so.

With blood drives in Henry County and donations made at the Stockbridge donor center, Barnes said the number of units donated between July 2004 and June 2005 are lower than the previous fiscal year. Over 3,900 units of blood were donated between 2004 and 2005, while more than 4,200 units were donated between 2003 and 2004, she said.

But that doesn't necessarily mean there were fewer donors. Barnes said there may have been fewer blood drives in the county, but those numbers were not available.

As for the south metro blood center in Stockbridge itself, Barnes said the number of units donated during the last two fiscal years are much closer.

Between July 2003 and June 2004, she said 2,020 units were donated at the center, and 1,936 units were donated between July 2004 and June 2005.

And there's one reason in particular the center's numbers are so close, Barnes said.

"We have a lot of loyal donors who donate every 56 days, which is the maximum you can donate," she said.

One of those Stockbridge center donors is Steve Dunn, who donated his 10th gallon of blood on his 50th birthday last week.

"I try to give every two months if I can," Dunn said in a previous interview with the Daily Herald.

While Dunn donates several times throughout the year, Red Cross spokesman Troy Russell said people are encouraged to donate at least twice a year. However, Russell said the Red Cross could use more people like Dunn.

"If we can get all donors to make the commitment Steve has made," Russell said, "we know we'll be well prepared to continue our mission of saving lives."

To donate blood and platelets, donors must be at least 17 and weigh no less than 110 pounds.

According to the Red Cross, if all eligible donors gave blood twice a year there would never be shortages.

"It is essential that eligible blood donors step forward and make donations as soon as possible," said Randy Edwards, chief executive officer of Red Cross' Southern region. "They are our only source of this precious human resource."

For more information, call (800) 448-5433 or visit www.givebloodredcross.org.

The Stockbridge site is one of seven centers in metro Atlanta and is located at 675 Southcrest Parkway, Suite 120.