Blood supply critically low; Portland, Bangor expand hours for donations

Posted June 29, 2012, at 3:51 p.m.
Last modified June 30, 2012, at 7:02 a.m.
Ellen Russell
Ellen Russell

A national shortage of donated blood has prompted the American Red Cross to schedule emergency blood drives in Maine.

“We have reached an emergency situation and the blood will not be there without the immediate response of volunteer blood donors,” Donna M. Morrissey, director of communications for the Northeast division of American Red Cross Blood Services, said in a press release. “The Red Cross relies upon generous blood donors so we can supply blood when and where it is needed. Right now, patients in hospitals across the country need you to roll up your sleeve and give the gift of lifesaving blood.”

Clinics in northern New England need to collect 8,300 units of blood over the next two weeks, the release states. Maine’s share of that goal is an additional 300 units above and beyond what’s typically collected, said Ellen Russell, director of Maine operations for the Red Cross.

“We’re looking for a 10 percent increase in the number of blood donations we see,” she said.

The Red Cross donor centers in Portland and Bangor will hold a special opening from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, July 2. Hours also have been extended at many Maine blood drives through July 10.

Nationally, the Red Cross’ blood supply has fallen to 50,000 fewer donations than expected in June, which is half the amount usually on hand at this time last year. An unseasonably early start to spring may be contributing to the drop-off as many regular donors are busy with summer activities, the release states. This year’s midweek Independence Day holiday also has reduced the number of scheduled Red Cross blood drives because sponsors, such as businesses and community groups, cannot host the drives while many of their employees are away on vacation.

All blood types are needed, but particularly O positive, O negative, B negative and A negative. Donated blood and platelets are used to treat accident and burn victims, organ transplant patients and other health conditions.

If enough blood isn’t donated over the next couple of weeks, the Red Cross will have to tightly monitor supplies distributed to hospitals, Russell said.

“We just want to make sure there will be blood available over the long holiday weekend,” she said.

Eligible donors are asked to call 1-800-RED CROSS or visit redcrossblood.org to find a blood drive and to make appointments.

Donors in July will receive a coupon for a free carton of Friendly’s Ice Cream.

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