SIKESTON -- After the Sept. 11 attacks, many people stood in line for hours waiting to give blood. Now, just five months later, the nation's blood supply has dwindled to pre-attack levels and the need for blood has resurfaced.
"Right now, (Southeast Missouri) is in particular need of O-negative and B-negative blood," said Jennifer Wylie-Fauser, American Red Cross media relations coordinator for blood services in the Missouri-Illinois region. "On the average the supply is about a six-day supply but O-negative and B-negative are at a one-day supply.
"We are asking all blood types to keep their blood donation appointments but if you are O-negative or B-negative we are especially asking that you make a blood donation."
Wylie-Fauser said that the winter and summer are times when blood supplies typically drop.
"It is because it is colder and it is the holiday season and people are doing family things and donating blood isn't necessarily in the forefront of their mind," Wylie-Fauser said. "What we try to do is get out there and remind the community that blood is needed every day and that blood is a very perishable product."
Blood banks hoped that this winter would be different after thousands of people lined up to give blood after the attacks. Some blood banks have reported calls from donors, angry that the Red Cross threw away 49,000 pints collected after the attacks and wondering why they should donate again.
The Red Cross' Dr. Jerry Squires said that such complaints are rare and that people must understand 49,000 excess units is a small fraction of the millions collected each year.
While no one has tracked exactly how many Sept. 11 donors have returned, monitoring by the government has concluded supplies that once jumped 33 percent are now largely back to pre-attack levels, leaving many areas routinely experiencing shortages.
Meanwhile, other potential donors have told blood banks they don't see the need unless their is an emergency. However, that is a dangerous misconception because a single car crash can require 50 units of blood.
"It is important for everyone in the community to remember that blood is very perishable and there is a shelf life for blood products," Wylie-Fauser said. "So if you donated in September, you are eligible to donate again."
Red blood cells last only 42 days, so regular, repeated donations are necessary. A person can donate blood every 56 days.
The American Red Cross has scheduled several blood drives for this week including from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday at the First Baptist Church in Charleston. The American Red Cross will also hold blood drives Thursday-Saturday at the Sikeston Factory Outlet Stores. times will be from 1-6 p.m. (Thursday), 3-8 p.m. (Friday) and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (Saturday).
Some information for this story was obtained from the Associated Press.