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Short Supply: 'More And More' Blood Is Needed

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Here's a New Year's resolution worth considering --- give blood.

The blood supply is so low that the area American Red Cross and LifeSouth Community blood centers were forced either to host blood drives or to keep donor centers open on New Year's Day.

Blood donations typically slow down in December. Folks are consumed by the holidays. School is out, so blood centers can't bank on the units they usually collect from high school and college donors. The flu bug has dulled holiday collections, too.

"A lot of people are canceling their appointments or not showing up because they are sick," said Sylvia Rucker, charge nurse at the American Red Cross's donor center in Duluth.

"We have a goal of about 198 pints for the holiday season," she said, "but we are needing more and more. People are trying to work surgeries in before they go back to work, and so we need it for those. Then you have to consider the emergencies, accidents and things like that."

The Duluth center will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Donors of platelets, a clotting agent, may give from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Meanwhile, LifeSouth Community Blood Centers are hosting blood drives across the region, with Gwinnett's set for 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday at Snellville United Methodist Church.

"We're hoping to end the week at 400 units, or pints, collected, and that's a low number at this point," said Stephanie Wilson, the district director. "We are 150 pints away from that goal. We're working on it."

Turnout at LifeSouth blood drives scheduled across metro Atlanta last week was "horrible," Wilson said. "The flu season is really killing us. People come to donate, and they are coughing and sneezing, and we have to defer them."

The Red Cross has to collect 1,200 units every weekday just to have an adequate blood supply for hospital patients in the Southern region. It supplies more than 140 hospitals and health care facilities in the Southeast.

That need has led the Red Cross to team up with the North Georgia United Methodists in a monthlong initiative called "We are God's Hands and Feet." The collection goal is 1,000 pints. Blood drives will be held at churches across the region; one is scheduled for 3 to 7:45 p.m. Jan. 14 at Duluth First United Methodist.

"If we can't collect enough, we end up having to fly blood in from other states," said Candice Gulden, spokeswoman for the Atlanta-based American Red Cross Blood Services, Southern region.

"The problem is there is a shortage nationwide, so everybody is in the same boat. We collect 15 percent of our blood from high school and college students. When they are out of school, that puts us at a disadvantage. People have been responding to the need, but there's just been a greater demand."

Copyright 2004 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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