Washington area emergency blood supplies are dwindly rapidly, as they do every year at this time, and the American Red Cross is once again appealing for donors.
"We have an annual problem," said Dr. Bruce McCurdy, director of the Washington Regional Blood Service. "I wish we could say we didn't have it, but we do."
The problem stems from the tendency of regular donors not to give blood during the holidays, and from a sharp increase in nonemergency surgery during that period and immediately afterward.
"We collected last week about half of what we distributed," said McCurdy. "We collected 1,700 units and we distributed in excess of 3,000. We had to drawn on our inventory."
McCurdy said there is now a good supply of A-positive and AB-positive blood, but supplies of some other types are down to 65 to 70 percent of what they should be.
The situation here is affected by two unusual factors, the first of which is a severe blood shortage in New York City, where hospitals have begun postponing elective surgery.
Normally, Washington, like other regional centers, draws on areas with blood surpluses to make up shortages. Now, said McCurdy, New York has "only been shipping us about half of what we've wanted them to."
Additionally, a woman who died at Holy Cross Hospital Saturday had been using "a fantastic amount" of blood, said McCurdy.
The woman, who had oriinally entered the hospital for a cesarean section, turned ut to have a rare blood condition that prevented her blood from clotting properly.
The woman was given 290 vials of clotting factor, sid McCurdy, or about 40 to 50 a day. A hemophiliac is usually given about six to nine vials during a bleeding episode, he said.
According to the woman's physician, "She bled out her total blood volume a couple of times. I've estimated she received enough clotting factor to supply all the hemophiliacs in Montgomery County for about six months."
McCurdy said that within the next few days the Red Cross will begin sending hospitals only a portion of the blood supplies they request, unless donations increase sharply.
Anyone wishing to donate blood may do so at Red Cross headquarters, 2025 E St. NW between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, or between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Friday.
Information on the location of bloodmobiles may be obtained by calling 857-3400.