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Red Cross leaders face low blood supplies

Blood supplies at the local Red Cross increased slightly yesterday, a day after the organization ran out of O negative blood - the first time that's happened in more than a year.

The Western Lake Erie Region of the American Red Cross had only four units of O negative blood on hand yesterday compared to a normal supply of 28 units. The supply of O positive was 47 units, and a normal supply of that is 108 units.

A shortage of O negative blood is considered critical because it can be given to anyone, regardless of blood type.

“We're obviously still concerned headed into the weekend that we'll be able to meet the needs of the hospitals,” said Judy Pearson, Red Cross spokeswoman.

The local Red Cross provides blood for 19 area hospitals in 10 northwest Ohio counties, and Monroe County, Michigan.

Representatives from the area's three major trauma centers - Medical College of Ohio Hospitals, St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, and Toledo Hospital - said their blood reserves are normal, but joined the Red Cross in urging the public to donate. Officials noted that one bad automobile accident - and accidents are typically more common over long holiday weekends - could quickly deplete a hospital's supply.

“We've been low all summer, but to get down to where we don't have any or today to have four ... I mean, four units doesn't go very far,” Ms. Pearson said. “The concern is for anything out of the ordinary happening.”

Ms. Pearson said she's grown used to hearing her organization is low on blood, but the call Thursday informing her that O negative blood had run out made her pause.

“I said, ‘Excuse me, did you really say zero?'” she recalled.

Unfortunately, she said, there was no mistake.

Donors were beginning to show up in greater numbers yesterday as a result of media publicity and phone calls placed to previous Red Cross donors, but Ms. Pearson said it's critical that people keep coming because it takes about two days after blood is donated to be tested and certified safe for use.

All Red Cross blood donor chapters can import blood from other chapters, but Ms. Pearson said that's becoming less of an option because supplies are low nationwide.

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