Red Cross looking to replenish blood

Snowstorms leave agency short, especially of platelets

February 10, 2010|By Kelly Brewington | kelly.brewington@baltsun.com

Last weekend's blizzard took a toll on the region's blood supply, and now the Red Cross is looking to replenish blood stores - particularly platelets, which have only a five-day shelf life - as it prepares for another crippling snowfall.

The one-two punch of snowstorms caused the local Red Cross to shut down local donation drives Saturday and Sunday as well as today. Today's cancellations alone mean missing more than 1,000 appointments for blood donations.

The organization needs to collect more than 1,000 pints of blood daily to meet the needs of the more than 60 hospitals it supplies in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia.

"A one-day setback is so significant in the work that we do," said Mike Baisey, spokesman for the American Red Cross Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Region.

The biggest need is for platelets, which aid in clotting and can be essential for trauma patients, said Baisey.

The donation procedure, known as apheresis, can only be done in a Red Cross donation center, not at a blood drive at a local business. Since platelet supplies last only five days, this week's cancellations could mean a depletion of supplies by midweek.

Typically, the organization can get blood shipped from another Red Cross chapter in the country, but with severe weather, transportation has been stalled, Baisey said.

"It's urgent," he said. "This reaching out to the public is for patients. This is for local hospital patients who need the blood and these platelets to survive."

Many Baltimore-area hospitals said while their supplies are sufficient now, they are keeping a watchful eye on their stores.

"We're in pretty good shape - we had a shipment today," Dan Collins, a spokesman for Mercy Medical Center, said Tuesday. "We do, like all hospitals, rely on the Red Cross. But if there were a problem getting blood from Red Cross, there are other blood centers where we can get blood from. ... It's always an ongoing challenge."

At the University of Maryland Medical Center, supplies are adequate, but the lack of blood drives over the weekend left blood types O and B vulnerable to shortages. The hospital has a blood drive scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday at the Paca-Pratt Building, 110 S. Paca St. in Baltimore.

The Red Cross is urging anyone eligible to donate platelets to call 1-800-272-2123 to schedule an appointment.



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