Blood supplies at critical level

Blood supplies have dropped to a perilous level at the Bay Area’s three blood banks — the American Red Cross, Blood Centers of the Pacific and Stanford Blood Center — and health officials are appealing for the public’s help.

“We are critically short,” said Dr. Kim-Anh Nguyen, medical director of Blood Centers of the Pacific. “We have less than a half-day’s supply on our shelves of both O-positive and O-negative and we’re very concerned about the rest of the week.”

A high rate of blood usage in the past week combined with few people donating blood has created a shortage of all blood types, particularly type O, which is used in many surgeries and trauma cases, Nguyen said.

Hospitals in San Francisco and the Peninsula have also been busier than usual with open-heart surgeries, transplants and cancer patients — all of whom have required transfusions.

While more blood has been needed, less has been donated due to many local residents scheduling vacations during the Fourth of July holiday.

Summer is traditionally a tough time for blood banks, said Sara O’Brien, spokeswoman for the Bay Area chapter of the American Red Cross.

“High schools and colleges are closed or they’re in summer sessions with few people,” O’Brien said. “Businesses don’t want to hold blood drives during the summer because they’re short-staffed and people are on vacation.”

While one out of three people will need a blood transfusion at some point, only 5 percent of eligible people donate blood, according to Nguyen.

“I believe people don’t donate not because they don’t care, but because they don’t understand the critical need every day,” she said.

To donate blood, contact Blood Centers of the Pacific at (888) 393-GIVE or www.bloodcenters.org; the American Red Cross at (800) GIVE-LIFE or www.beadonor.com; or Stanford Blood Center at (888) 723-7831 or http://bloodcenter.stanford.edu/.

tbarak@examiner.com


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