On Sept. 11, the day of the attacks, the State of New Jersey asked local blood centers to be prepared for 4,000 possible victims. New York City hospitals also braced for an influx of victims that did not occur.
"Sadly, hospitals downtown are not using a lot of blood," says Linda Levi, director of communications for the New York Blood Center, which collects for about 200 hospitals in New York and New Jersey. "They're seeing smoke inhalation and burns but not the typical traumas that require massive amounts of transfusions, which is quite sad.""We did collect quite a bit of blood but we did not get an increase in requests," says Judy Daniels, spokeswoman for the Blood Center of New Jersey.
Donations to the Blood Center of New Jersey increased about 500 percent over the past week. In the three days immediately following the tragedy, the New York Blood Center collected 14,000 donations. On a "normal" day, the center gets about 1,500 donations.
"We've collected so much blood that we're recommending people come back in a month or so to make a donation at that time, " says Levi. "We don't want it to go to waste." People who give blood are not eligible to donate again for eight weeks.
Levi also asks that would-be donors remember that patients in hospitals need blood all the time.
"We're hoping that that spirit of community and support and helping neighbors will carry over and that people will make donations as we approach the holidays," says Levi. Donations typically dry up in the period from Thanksgiving to New Year's.
The American Association of Blood Banks is urging people who have not already donated to wait another three to four weeks before giving.
As for what will happen to the surplus blood now available, Daniels says that her blood center will be freezing some of it, which is a complicated task. The New York Blood Center is continuing to screen the deluge of the recent donations so that the blood can be available to area hospitals.
Generally, blood donations are "up and running" 24 to 48 hours after being received. Right now, this process is delayed somewhat simply because of the volume, not because of the need.
"We wish that were an issue right now," says Levi. "But hospitals haven't been needing much blood."
What To Do
Blood Center of New Jersey officials are asking volunteers to leave their name, number and blood type to be placed on an on-call donor list for current or future blood-need emergencies. To be placed on the list, call 1-800-652-5663, ext. 140, or register online at Blood Center of New Jersey.
The American Red Cross also has a donor information form.