Bloodless in Baltimore

Crisis: Red Cross worries about a severe shortage of fresh blood supplies around Labor Day.

July 22, 2000

BLOOD is always in short supply in this region, but there is an acute shortage this summer that will likely get worse in August. The American Red Cross, which collects blood for hospitals, is begging businesses, churches and other organizations to sponsor blood drives to head off a possibly disastrous situation.

Demand for blood is generally high here. Baltimore is home to major organ transplant centers. And transplant surgeries generally require sizable transfusions. A liver transplant, for example, can require between 50 and 100 units of fresh blood. In addition, scores of patients come from outside the area for these procedures, placing an even greater burden on the local blood supply.

The Red Cross' Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Region -- stretching from southern Pennsylvania to Northern Virginia -- uses about 335,000 units a year. About 275,000 units -- generally pints -- are collected locally. The remaining 60,000 are from other regions.

To meet this demand, about 1,300 units must be collected each workday. Around Memorial Day, the Red Cross was collecting about two-thirds the daily amount needed, so hospitals had to reschedule elective surgeries. Donations have picked up recently, but inventories remain low.

To avoid a crisis in August, Red Cross officials need groups to sponsor drives. The organization has found that bringing bloodmobiles to offices, factories and churches to be the most effective method for obtaining blood.

The Red Cross is very interested in attracting first-time donors because once people see how easy giving blood is, they usually donate regularly. Anyone over 17 years old in good health can give blood. Donors can schedule appointments at various locations around the region by calling 1-800-448-3543.

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