Blood Donations Low, Patient Care Depends on Donors Who Give Today, American Red Cross Officials Say

January 10, 2003

PHILADELPHIA -- Because of the low blood supply level, the American Red Cross Penn-Jersey Region has had to cut hospital blood product orders this week. In order to prevent a blood supply crisis, Red Cross officials are urgently asking donors to give now.

Today, there is less than a one-day supply of type O blood and less than a two-day supply for all other blood types. Type O blood is critically low because it is the universal donor, and can be safely given to patients of any blood type. A two-day supply is the minimum safe level. A five-day supply is the optimum safe level.

"There is no excess blood in the American Red Cross system," says Brigid O'Neill-LaGier, chief executive officer of the American Red Cross Penn-Jersey Region. "Because we use so much blood here to support complex medical procedures, cancer treatment and emergency care, we rely on about one-third of our supply coming from Red Cross blood centers in other parts of the country. Blood donations have been sporadic across the U.S. and our normal shipments have been cut significantly.

"Donations typically drop around the holidays then slowly rebound. We have not seen a rebound yet, and we continue to work to get donations back to normal levels for the patients who depend on us."

O'Neill-LaGier says if there was a sudden increase in the need for blood today, caused by routine events or those that are out of the ordinary, patients with serious medical needs may have to wait for care.

"It takes 48 hours to process and test a blood donation before it can be given to a hospital patient," says O'Neill-LaGier. "Because of the time it takes to test blood, donations are needed now to ensure that we can meet all patient needs next week. By making blood donation part of a regular routine, you help build a strong blood supply that enables the community to consistently remain prepared.

"We can't afford to wait. For the hospital patient who needs blood two days from now, this is urgent. That patient is counting on a volunteer blood donor. We need our donors to give blood today."

Although you may not see them, accidents and emergencies occur daily in this major metropolitan area where more than 100 hospitals routinely require 5,000 blood products every 48 hours. The only source of that life-giving blood is the community itself.

The Penn-Jersey Region is the major supplier of lifesaving blood for more than 100 hospitals in southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, central New Jersey and portions of northern New Jersey. To find a blood drive near where you or for more information, visit the Red Cross web site at, or call 1-800-GIVE LIFE (1-800-448-3543).

Source: American Red Cross Blood Services, Penn-Jersey Region

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