Blood Donors Nationwide Wait Hours, Asked to Come Back
With thousands of people across the country waiting in lines for hours to donate blood in the wake of Tuesday's terrorist attacks, America's Blood Centers is urging donors to wait to donate, saying the "national blood supply for [the] victims is at capacity," USA Today reports (Manning, USA Today, 9/13). At five Bonfils Blood Centers in the Denver area, 2,000 pints of blood were collected on Tuesday, and yesterday the waiting rooms at donation centers were "filled with hundreds" who had registered to donate. On Tuesday night, 300 pints were loaded onto a Lear jet headed to New Jersey's Teterboro Airport (Janofsky, New York Times, 9/13). In the Washington D.C. area, waits to donate lasted up to six hours, and more than 2,000 donors were turned away because staff members were "overwhelmed." The Red Cross' Greater Potomac and Chesapeake region deployed hundreds of extra volunteers to keep up with the "incessant flow" of donors (Honawar, Washington Times, 9/13). However, Brooke Doherty, a spokesperson for America's Blood Centers, said that many donors "mistakenly believe" that blood can be stored indefinitely for later use. Whole blood has a shelf life of 42 days, but platelets must be used within three to five days. She added, "There's going to be an overload of blood in these blood banks that isn't going to be used. People need to understand that standing in line at these blood banks may make them feel good, but if they really want to help they can do that by giving in the weeks and months to follow" (USA Today, 9/13). The Spokane Spokesman-Review reports that the Inland Northwest Blood Center is also asking that people "come back next week" to make donations (Craig, Spokane Spokesman-Review, 9/13).
Meanwhile, the American Red Cross, at the urging of President Bush, is continuing to encourage donations now and later. Red Cross President Bernadine Healy said, "We have an obligation ... to continue to maintain our blood supply and keep inventories up." The Red Cross currently has 120,000 units, or a four-day supply, on hand and is developing technology to allow blood to be stored for longer periods of time. The Red Cross has decided to donate up to 30,000 units to hospitals treating victims of the attack. Healy added that the blood drives help people "console" each other. Healy said, "This is wounded America. This is the spirit of giving. We don't want to turn that off" (USA Today, 9/13). The New York Times reports that many donors are "acting out of compassion" as well at satisfying a need to do something. Steve Benson, a carpenter from Flagler, Colo., said, "Giving blood is the only thing I can do at the moment because there are people in need in my country" (New York Times, 9/13). To schedule a donation, call 1-800 GIVE LIFE and to make a financial contribution to the Red Cross, call 1-800 HELP NOW.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.