Frist blood drive since Sept. 11 draws well

On Wednesday, Hood River held its first blood drive since the terrorist attacks on the East Coast and donors were out in force. In fact, days before the drive local Red Cross workers scrapped the usual mix of pre-set appointments and walk-ins and went to a walk-ins only regimen after the call volume for scheduling donor appointments became too heavy.

"The phone was ringing off the hook," said Hood River blood services chairman Margo Parker. The Sept. 26 blood drive had been scheduled before the terrorist attacks.

The drive started at 1:30 p.m. and by 2 p.m. there was already a half-hour wait. "We had 57 people come in during the first hour," Parker said. "So we were backed up from then on."

Parker said it was great to have so many willing donors, but the wait combined with limited Red Cross staff made it hard for everyone who wanted to donate blood to do so.

"Some people just didn't have time to wait that long," Parker said. The Red Cross collected 107 units of blood at the drive and signed up many who had to leave before donating for the next scheduled drive on Oct. 31.

Parker said she signed up 19 first-time donors -- more than she'd ever seen in a one-day blood drive during her 10 years with the Red Cross in Hood River. "The most we've ever had before was six," she said.

According to Red Cross consultant Jon Rabe, the nation's blood supply is the "best we've ever seen it." The blood supply in the Northwest -- and much of the nation -- had been on a "critical alert" status since last December, meaning that there was less than a half-day supply of blood in regional banks.

Immediately after the attacks, donors flooded Red Cross offices and drives and, according to Rabe, the critical alert was brought to an end in one day.

But Rabe and Parker both stressed the need for blood donations on an ongoing basis -- not just after a disaster like the terrorist attacks.

"Sixty percent of the population is eligible to donate," Rabe said, "but only slightly more than five percent actually do." He said the goal of the Red Cross is to establish and maintain a five-day blood supply -- something that, even with the flood of donors in the last couple of weeks, has not been accomplished.

"Hopefully this will raise the awareness," Rabe said.

The next Red Cross blood drive is scheduled for Oct. 31 at the Armory. Donation appointments can be made by calling Margo Parker at 387-3669.

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