People in at least a dozen states want Utahns' blood. And it has nothing to do with the Olympics bid scandal.
It has everything to do with severe, even devastating winter storms, a drop in blood donations over the holidays and a resulting blood shortage so acute that many hospitals have had to cancel elective surgeries and alter treatment plans for others.Utah managed to keep up its blood supply over the holidays, when people are less likely to donate. This year, with media appeals for blood, the donations didn't dip. Now residents have the opportunity to reach out to areas wracked by severe storms, particularly in northern, central and southern parts of the nation, said Gary Ouellette, head of the Utah Blood Services Division of the American Red Cross.
Ouellette made the appeal during a news conference Monday morning. He said the needs of area hospitals would be met first, then excess blood would be flown to other parts of the country.
Twelve American Red Cross areas are on "urgent appeal" status, meaning they have less than a day's supply of blood or blood products.
Blood banks typically stockpile between three and four days of blood, but about half of America's blood banks have less than a one-day supply, said Bob Ensinger of the National Association of Blood Banks.
For example, in Pittsburgh, only 200 people have been donating blood daily during recent snow and ice storms, while the blood bank needs 700 just to maintain adequate amounts.
To encourage giving, the four Red Cross blood donation centers in Ogden, Murray, St. George and Orem will be open for extended hours for the next week.
All blood types are needed, but particularly O-positive and O-negative. The former is the most common blood type and the latter is the universal donor, meaning anyone can receive it in a crisis, said Dr. Annie Strupp, medical director for the local American Red Cross.
Once a blood donation is made, red cells have a shelf life of 42 days, while some blood components only last five days. Blood is screened for illness in 24 to 48 hours, then can be released to local hospitals or shipped to other parts of the country that need it, Strupp said.
Blood banks have asked hospitals in Atlanta, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., to postpone elective surgery, Ensinger said. New York, Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati and parts of Oregon were considering similar requests.
The harsh weather also has hampered efforts by well-supplied blood banks in the Midwest and Northeast to share their stockpiles with those that need blood.
Some blood banks, like that operated by the Associated Regional and University Pathologists (ARUP) in Utah , anticipated post-holiday slowdowns and scheduled special blood drives around the holidays.
Others, like the Sacramento Blood Center, which serves 40 hospitals in northern California, held theme events to attract donors.
"This week we have 'type-O party.' For refreshments, we have Oreo cookies, Tootsie Rolls, anything with an 'O' in it," said center spokeswoman Karen Gargiulo. "It might sound silly, but that really does help."
To find out where to donate in your area, call 1-800-448-3543 (GIVE LIFE).
The Associated Press contributed to this report.