Tuesday, January 8, 2002

Remember 9-11-01

Isle Blood Bank has
a 4-day supply,
not quite critical

Situation worse on mainland

Star-Bulletin staff

Hawaii mirrors the mainland in facing a low supply of blood available for surgery and emergencies at a time of year when donations are down.

"We are not at critical levels like mainland centers. We have about a four-day supply on our shelves, just above the critical level," said Dr. Robyn Yim, president of the Blood Bank of Hawaii.

"We need 200 units a day to supply hospitals."

Yim said the tremendous turnout of donors after the Sept. 11 terrorism has led to some misconception that there is a glut.

"The blood donation need is continuous since blood is perishable. Platelets only last for five days, red cells for about a month."

January is traditionally the hardest month to recruit blood donors. "We have been calling the people who came in September, asking if they will come back," Yim said.

"A lot said they want to stay on the list but are very busy at this time."

In a New Year solicitation, the facility is issuing Lifesaver certificates to donors.

The blood that was donated in September was not shipped to the disaster scenes in New York and Washington, D.C.

"We had it ready to ship, but because there was no need in New York, we used most of the blood for patients in Hawaii," she said.

She said the local blood bank received some questions after published reports that the Red Cross on the mainland dumped some of blood donated apparently because it was not needed while still usable.

"Our challenge is to meet our own need daily."

Drop-in donors are also welcome at the 2043 Dillingham Blvd. center from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and at the downtown center, 126 Queen St., from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

To donate, a person must be in good health, 18 years of age or older, weigh at least 110 pounds and have a valid photo identification.

In honor of January being the State Volunteer Blood Donor Month, Zippy's and Punahou School's Key Club are coordinating a blood drive Saturday.

The drive will be held at the Honolulu Country Club, 1690 Ala Puumalu, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Schedule an appointment by calling Roger Higa, spokesman for Zippy's parent company, FCH Enterprises Inc., at 973-0880, ext. 321, or by calling the Blood Bank at 845-9966.

Regular appointments may be made by calling the Blood Bank of Hawaii or through the Web site

Blood donations drop
to pre-Sept. 11 levels

Nationwide supplies again
reach critical levels as post-terror
benevolence fades

By Lauran Neergaard
Associated Press

WASHINGTON >> Thousands of people who pledged to donate blood after Sept. 11 are not doing so as the nation's supply dwindles to pre-attack levels and in some places nears shortages.

Blood supplies always drop in the winter as snowstorms, flu and holidays hinder regular donors from giving. Blood banks hoped this winter would be different after hundreds of thousands lined up to donate after the attacks. Instead, supplies are tightening again. Stocks of O-negative, the only blood type everyone can use, are especially worrisome.

"We're back to begging for volunteer blood donors," Joyce Halvorsen of the Community Blood Bank in Lincoln, Neb., says with a sigh.

"We're seeing a trickle" of Sept. 11 donors return, adds Jim McPherson of America's Blood Centers, whose member blood banks supply about half the nation's blood. "It's a little disheartening."

Some potential donors tell blood banks they do not see the need to give again unless there is an emergency. That is a dangerous misconception. Emergencies happen every day. A single car crash can require 50 units of blood. A California blood bank just reported using its entire inventory to deal with 21 car crashes in a single day due to bad fog.

Some blood banks also report calls from donors angry that the Red Cross threw away 49,000 pints collected after the Sept. 11 attacks and wondering why they should donate again.

The Red Cross had so much extra because it encouraged continued donations in the days after the attacks even though banks were full. In contrast, America's Blood members urged donors to come back in a few weeks when blood would be needed again, yet find today that some donors do not distinguish between the two groups.

"We are not the American Red Cross and ... we did not discard any units," is a message Elizabeth Neff of the Central Florida Blood Bank finds herself frequently giving to complaints that "I read in the paper you're throwing blood away."

The Red Cross's Dr. Jerry Squires says such complaints are rare and that people must understand 49,000 excess units is a small fraction of the millions collected each year.

Red blood cells last only 42 days, so regular, repeated donations are necessary.

No one has tracked exactly how many Sept. 11 donors have returned. But experts say it is easy to see that only a fraction have: Government monitoring concludes supplies that jumped 33 percent are now largely back to pre-attack levels -- and those levels were so tight that many areas routinely experienced shortages.

Today, about a third of America's Blood members are appealing for donations because they have a day's supply or less of certain blood types.

The American Red Cross, which supplies the other half of the nation's blood, contends it is doing better this winter than last but acknowledges it has only a one- or two-day supply of crucial Type O-negative blood, too little for comfort.

One blood bank that is counting Sept. 11 returnees: The Central Florida Blood Bank in Orlando had 6,000 first-time donors that week and tracked 891 returns by Christmas. To help lure more back, it is trying giveaways such as patriotic T-shirts and free long-distance phone cards.

Many Americans do not understand that blood must be regularly replenished so enough is on hand when emergency strikes.

Donating after disaster will not help the first victims because required safety testing takes a few days.

There are ways to help this winter, says America's Blood Centers, which this week begins ads designed to spur donation:

>> People can donate once every 56 days.

>> Even if you have never donated before, starting is especially important during the winter, when colds, flu or bad weather sideline many longtime donors.

>> When bad winter weather strikes, donate blood as soon as it is safe to drive to your local blood bank. Snow and ice storms are times when blood is used rapidly.

>> If weather or illness prevents you from donating, call your blood bank to reschedule an appointment.

E-mail to City Desk

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