Wednesday, November 14, 2001

It's donation time again

Blood supplies skyrocketed after Sept. 11, but regional banks are prepared to restock

By Peggy O'Farrell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        If you gave blood in the days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, it's time to roll up your sleeves and give again, say officials at Hoxworth Blood Center.

        Thousands of Tristaters donated blood in the hopes of helping victims of the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Because so few survived, the blood wasn't needed in New York and Washington.

    For information on becoming a blood donor, call Hoxworth Blood Center at 451-0910 or (800) 830-1091.
        But it has helped patients here, says Michael Anderson, a spokesman for the blood center.

        “We're telling our donors, "You wanted to help the people in New York, but really what you ended up doing is helping the people in Cincinnati.' ”

        Now Hoxworth officials are working to encourage Cincinnatians to keep giving.

        In August, Hoxworth issued an emergency appeal for donors because blood stores were so low.

        But since Sept. 11, the refrigeration unit that stores blood until it's shipped to hospitals and blood banks has been “nice and full,” says Hoxworth's Meg Wilkens, division director for donor services and community relations.

        That's a rarity in the blood-bank business, Ms. Wilkens says.

        “Everybody's got the blood that we need to take care of our patients here, which is nice for a change,” she says. “I don't know that any of us in this industry have seen it like this before.” Mary Ann Bullock, 46, of Edgewood, Vickie Warndorff, 44, of Westwood, and Jenny Dean, 39, of Anderson Township, are among a group of Convergys employees who donate blood regularly at Hoxworth's downtown collection center, 432 Walnut St.

        Ms. Bullock marked her birthday and the donation of her 10th gallon of blood when she donated last week.

        She started donating several years ago to help a friend, Ms. Bullock says, ""and then they were giving out Domino's pizza, and I just kept it up,'' she says.

        Ms. Bullock and her friends were asked to delay their regular donations during the post-attack rush.

        Donna Neal, head nurse at the downtown center, says most of their donors are regulars. But immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, she says, the faces were “all new. Probably 85, 90 percent were first-time donors, and that was for several weeks.”

        Healthy donors can give blood every eight weeks. But whole blood can only be stored for six weeks; after that, it has to be destroyed. On average, it takes 325 pints of blood a day to meet patient needs in Hoxworth's service area, which covers 14 counties.

        Before Sept. 11, daily collections averaged 280 to 300 units and supplies were chronically short.

        “The days when we'd get 325 units would be rare,” Ms. Wilkens says.

        In the first couple of weeks after the attacks, collections averaged 400 to 500 units a day. And, while daily collections have dropped off somewhat, Hoxworth still collects 325 to 350 units of blood a day, Ms. Wilkens says.

        Through careful product management — reminding physicians to use blood closer to its expiration date rather than newer stock; asking regular donors to delay giving during the post-attacks rush; asking donors with rarer blood types to consider donating platelets (which aren't type-specific) instead of whole blood that could reach its expiration date before it's needed — Hoxworth has been able to limit the amount of blood it's had to destroy to less than 1 percent of its total collection since Sept. 11, Mr. Anderson says.


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