Residents donate blood to alleviate shortage Supply has been low because of blizzard, government shutdown

January 16, 1996|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,SUN STAFF

It was old hat to Murray C. Taylor as his 180th pint of donated blood trickled into a plastic bag yesterday at the American Red Cross donor center on York Road in Lutherville.

"I just do this so I can get my blood pressure checked free," quipped Mr. Taylor, 66, a businessman from Towson who could not remember when he first gave blood. "But who knows, one of these days I might need it for myself."

For Wendy Smith, 23, of Cockeysville, however, it was a new adventure -- her first blood donation. Even though she was a little shaky afterward, Ms. Smith said she will donate again.

"They were low [in blood supply] so I thought it was time to do it," said Ms. Smith, referring to the Red Cross' nearly monthlong plea for blood donations and an emergency appeal from Gov. Parris N. Glendening to meet shortages caused by the blizzard and the recent partial shutdown of a major collection site: federal offices.

Mr. Taylor and Ms. Smith, a graduate student in art education at Maryland Institute, College of Art, were among many who joined the effort yesterday.

The shortage is very real, said Linnea Anderson, spokeswoman at the regional Red Cross headquarters in Baltimore. "We were forced to import blood last week," she said.

Last week, the Red Cross only filled blood orders for hospital emergencies and not for elective surgery, she said. "We had only a half-day's supply of platelets, which are primarily used for cancer patients.

"We have been very disrupted by the storms and typically at this time of year it's bad anyway," Ms. Anderson said. "People are away during the holidays and they have their own agendas. We're always begging."

The entire storm-battered Northeast is suffering a blood shortage, but the Chesapeake-Potomac region, which includes Baltimore and Washington, had the double whammy of the blizzard and the federal shutdown. "There has been a national appeal for blood," Ms. Anderson said.

The local Red Cross needs about 7,500 pints of blood a week to provide for people undergoing surgery and to meet emergencies such as accidents, Ms. Anderson said. "Every 17 seconds someone needs blood, and only 5 percent of the eligible population donates blood."

The 13 regional blood centers in Maryland, Northern Virginia and Washington are scheduled to be open each day this week from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Ms. Anderson said. "We're trying to play catch-up."

Denise Milkowski, the registered nurse in charge of the Lutherville blood center yesterday, said Thursday was its best day, with 80 pints of blood donated. "People responded to the appeal and that was the first day they could get out," she said.

There was a strong response yesterday at the Lutherville center. By 4 p.m., nearly 50 donors had given blood. Another 33 had appointments before the scheduled 8 p.m. closing, but unscheduled walk-ins were welcome.

Ms. Anderson said she only gets overnight reports from the donor centers and had no interim reports on the overall response to the governor's added appeal.

Homemaker Kim Clark, 34, of Owings Mills came for one of her regular donations with her daughter, Taylor, 7 months. "I physically feel better after I've given blood. It's like out with the old to make some new. And it's for a good cause," said Mrs. Clark, who is working on her third gallon.

Mary Lou Doty of Spring Lake, a retired secretary to the Baltimore County police chief, said she has been donating blood since 1981 when she first gave during a bloodmobile drive at police headquarters.

"It is the easiest way to do something to help someone else," Mrs. Doty said.

I= Anyone wishing to donate blood can call 1-800-GIVE BLOOD.

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