Friday, June 15, 2001

Shootings, wrecks drain blood supply

Hoxworth pleads for more donors

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A recent wave of shootings in the Tristate has contributed to a shortage of blood at the Hoxworth Blood Center.

        The blood bank, which supplies 24 area hospitals, declared an emergency appeal for donation, especially for people with type O blood, this week. The emergency means the blood bank will run extended hours through Saturday.

        So far, people have been rolling up their sleeves. On Wednesday, the center collected 537 units, well above its normal 325-unit goal, officials said.

        Yet on Thursday, Hoxworth was still running 184 units low on type O-positive blood and 17 units low on type B-negative blood. Type O blood is important because it is the most common type of blood and the only type that can be safely used in any person.

        “Usage has been very high. We've had car accidents and gunshots practically every day,” said Meg Wilkens, Hoxworth's director of donor recruitment.

        A single gunshot victim can require 50 to 70 units of blood during surgery. From April 1 to May 28, Cincinnati police reported 33 shootings.

        The spike in trauma cases comes at a traditionally difficult time for blood donations. During the warm months, there are very few high school blood drives, which account for about 12 percent of the community's blood supply.

        The latest emergency also was aggravated by a tropical storm in Houston, which disrupted blood donations there, making it nearly impossible for Hoxworth to buy blood to ease its shortfall.

        So far, the blood bank has not needed to ask doctors to delay elective surgeries. That would be one of the next steps if the emergency appeal doesn't erase the shortfall.

        The latest emergency appears to be more a problem of demand than a dip in supply. Overall, blood donations to Hoxworth have increased about 5 percent compared with last year, Ms. Wilkens said, but demand for blood has grown even faster.

        Instead of using about 83,000 units of blood per year, local hospitals are using about 86,000 units per year, she said.

        Hoxworth is urging more corporate blood drives and encouraging their frequent annual donors to try to give twice this year.

        “We have 25,000 people who give once a year. If half of those people gave twice a year, we wouldn't have a supply problem,” Ms. Wilkens said.


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