A blood emergency was declared yesterday for 10 counties in northwest Ohio as well as Monroe County in Michigan.
It was the first time in five years that the Western Lake Erie Region of the American Red Cross has made such a declaration.
With the area's overall supply of blood at less than two days - and the supply of O negative, the most commonly used blood for emergency procedures, at less than one day - the Red Cross has started to deliver only partial shipments to area hospitals.
The Ohio counties affected by the decision include Fulton, Lucas, Wood, Ottawa, Hancock, Henry, Putnam, Sandusky, Seneca, and Wyandot.
“Emergency isn't a word we freely use here,” said Judy Pearson, a Red Cross spokesman. “It's particularly troublesome because, in the past, July and August have been the tight months. If we're short now, when the summer's just beginning, we're really worried how we're going to be in a week or two.”
If the Red Cross' blood supplies get down to zero, the 22 area hospitals it serves - including every hospital in the Toledo area - will be forced to rely solely on their own supplies.
That's a scary thought, said Michelle Bartkowiak, lab manager at Medical College of Ohio Hospitals. “We keep 20 units of O negative here on site,” Ms. Bartkowiak said. “Just one severe trauma case could wipe out our entire reserve supply.”
“Doctors would definitely cancel surgeries if they knew we had minimal supplies,” Ms. Bartkowiak added. “Heart surgeries, any kind of vascular surgery, complicated orthopedic procedures - all of these would require a large supply of blood on hand.”
Summer is typically referred to as “trauma season,” when a greater number of accidents create a greater demand for blood. Additionally, donor centers have had a problem with no-shows, and several corporate blood drives had to be canceled due to work-force downsizing.
“It's nice outside and people are on vacation, so we get less walk-ins,” said Kathy Smith, donor services director for the Red Cross' Lake Erie region. “Plus, we lost four corporate drives this month. When a company's in the midst of downsizing, it makes it really hard for them to put on a drive.”
The depleted supplies also are part of a cycle, Ms. Smith said. Immediately after the war in Iraq started in late April, the Red Cross had three to four weeks worth of excellent donations. But after that, the quantity of donations declined “fairly rapidly.”
Since donors are not allowed to give blood more than once every two months, such a large donation all at once has added to the current crisis.
“The whole nation is in trouble,” Ms. Pearson said. “The national inventory should be at 150,000 pints, rather than the 70,896 pints we have now. It's harder to import blood from other areas if we need it.”
To donate blood, you must be at least 17 years old, in good health, and weigh at least 110 pounds. The Red Cross has extended its donor center's hours this week to accommodate additional donors.
The hours for the donor center at 3510 Executive Pkwy. are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and tomorrow; 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday; 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.