Blood donors fill military need
By CHRIS TISCH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 10, 2003
Tampa Bay residents have responded to requests for blood by donating hundreds more units per week than normal.
The surge has helped Florida Blood Services ship blood to the military overseas and pad local reserves.
Local residents have been donating up to 3,900 units of blood per week over the past 14 days, about 800 units more per week than normal, said J.B. Gaskins, vice president of Florida Blood Services.
Gaskins thinks the increase in donations may stem from publicity about Florida Blood Services being one of six hubs in the nation providing blood for soldiers overseas.
"It brings out a greater awareness to people in the community that there is a need," Gaskins said. "I think people are very conscious and supportive like they were in 1991 during Desert Storm."
The blood service on Monday made its second shipment of blood for military use, Gaskins said.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, people lined up for hours to give blood nationwide, creating a huge supply. Some of that blood spoiled after its 42-day shelf life expired, said Scott Caswell, spokesman for America's Blood Centers in Washington, D.C.
"There was too much blood," Caswell said.
Although blood centers are pleased to see a wave of donors, he said, they aren't making too much noise about recruiting more donors because of lessons learned after the terrorist attacks.
"I don't think blood centers are really pounding the tables or beating the bushes for donors to come in or using the military to get blood donors," said Caswell, whose organization serves as a liaison between Florida Blood Services and the military.
Caswell said the military requested blood from his organization and the American Red Cross. Although the Department of Defense doesn't allow those agencies to disclose how much blood they have provided, Caswell said it hasn't been much.
"I would characterize their request as small," he said.
Florida Blood Services, the nation's fourth-largest blood transfusion service, did need help from some other blood centers to replenish its O-negative blood supply after making the shipments to the military, Gaskins said.
"It brings out a greater awareness to people in the community that there is a need," Gaskins said. "We've got to be very careful not to have peaks and valleys in our blood supply."
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