Magazine article Insight on the News

Too Much Blood on Their Hands

Magazine article Insight on the News

Too Much Blood on Their Hands

Article excerpt

In a show of patriotism, Americans have been donating blood en masse. But even though the oversupply eventually may be dumped, the Red Cross still continues to ask for more.

Not since Pearl Harbor have Americans responded as they did the week the world stood still following Sept. 11, 2001. Tens of thousands stood in lines for hours and rolled up their sleeves to give blood so others might live. In fact, Americans gave so much blood that, since fresh blood lasts only 42 days, some of it might have to be dumped.

The American Red Cross, which supplies about 54 percent of the nation's auxiliary blood supply, nonetheless is telling people to keep donating blood and donors are obliging. In Washington, for example, 9,005 donors contributed in the first three days following the attacks. Nationwide, 176,000 donated, nearly eight times more than usual. And in the first 12 hours after the terrorist strikes, 1.8 million called the Red Cross to schedule an appointment.

The independent blood banks also saw business boom on the morning of the attacks. Bob Jones, president of the New York City Blood Center, says he had an auditorium full of donors with 5,000 donating the first day, another 5,000 the second and 3,000 the third -- about five times the amount it normally collects. "In the end, though," Jones says, "the medical need was minimal for blood. We sent 600 units to the area hospitals and checked on an hourly basis but they didn't need any more. We have more blood than we need for the moment."

Sadly, there were few survivors after the terrorists hijacked American planes and smashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, so much of that blood is not needed. Not yet. "We didn't know when the terrorists attacked how much blood we would need," explains American Red Cross spokesman Darren Irby. "We didn't know what it was going to be like. But this is just another way for America to heal."

Jones, however, says, "Blood donations need to be done over time so that we always have an adequate supply. We will just have to wait and see if those who are donating come back in four to six weeks when we need donors. The most positive benefit is there has been increased donor awareness. I keep telling people we are not a bank; we can't keep blood for a long time; we are America's pipeline."

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is not too pleased with the American Red Cross' approach of continuing to solicit blood on the spot rather than push for donors to schedule appointments because it fears much of the blood collected may be wasted. …

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