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Nation's Blood Supply Holds Steady

Response overwhelming to call for help

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 12, 2001 (HealthDayNews) -- The nation's blood supply is holding steady, thanks largely to the overwhelming number of people who have volunteered their veins.

"Currently New York facilities and Washington, D.C., facilities indicate that their blood levels are being maintained because of the tremendous outpouring of support from the American public," says Sara Foer, director of communications at the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB). "We've been able to maintain good levels of blood supply to meet all the hospital demand. Centers in New York and Washington are closely monitoring blood needs as rescue efforts continue."

The current situation was helped by good inventory levels before the crisis brought on by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. "We've been in contact with blood facilities in New York City and Washington, D.C., and what we've learned is that they're maintaining blood levels OK. They haven't gone down," says Jamie Blietz, director of the National Blood Exchange (NBE), a subsidiary of the AABB, which matches supply with demand. "Obviously, there have been a tremendous amount of donations," and they appear to be keeping the inventory stable, Blietz says.

Across the nation, donors have been standing in line for hours to give blood for the victims of yesterday's tragedies. The New York Blood Center announced Tuesday night that it had received an estimated 4,000 donations in the New York/New Jersey area. In Hartford, Conn., one line to give blood was seven-hours long, according to a volunteer.

The AABB now is asking people who want to donate to come back in 30 days. Because blood has a shelf life of about 42 days, the supply must be constantly replenished, and experts are worried that area hospitals will experience a shortage in the days and weeks to come. The Red Cross estimates that at least 1,500 donations will be needed each weekday locally. "We want people to remember that blood is not only going to be needed just now but also in coming weeks, certainly for the burn victims," says Foer.

The New York Blood Center says there is a particular need for Type O and Rh-negative donors.

Blood supply organizations face the added challenge of transporting blood from other parts of the country into the two affected areas. "Air transport has been completely halted so blood has to be moved on the ground. Blood can't be in transport for more than 24 hours," says Blietz. Blood centers in Florida have coordinated three different truck shipments to Washington and New York, a trip which takes about 18 hours. One truck already is in Washington and will be heading to New York shortly.

The NBE also received special permission to have one shipment, also from Florida, flown to New York today. And news reports say another shipment is being flown in from Denver.

"We've got more than we need right now," but that could change in an instant if many more survivors are found, says Judy Daniels, spokeswoman for the Blood Center of New Jersey. The New Jersey Center will be issuing a statement as events warrant.

Blietz says, "We're waiting to hear exactly what is needed. Several blood centers around the country have told us what they have. They're ready to send it, and we've arranged transportation."

What To Do

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is urging anyone interested in helping victims of yesterday's tragedies to give blood or cash donations. For more information, visit this FEMA site.

For specific information on how to donate blood, visit the American Red Cross.

SOURCES: Interviews with Sara Foer, director of communications, AABB, Bethesda, Md.; Jamie Blietz, director, NBE, Bethesda, Md., and Judy Daniels, spokeswoman, Blood Center of New Jersey, Parsippany; New York Blood Center and American Red Cross statements
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