Washington area residents have donated blood in record levels since a national plea was issued last week to boost blood supplies made dangerously low because of misguided fears about AIDS.
Public response has been "excellent," according to local American Red Cross officials. But, they added, there still is less than a one-day supply of blood at the Red Cross, which distributes blood to 60 area hospitals. The problem is that hospital blood banks have used the new donations simply to restock their empty shelves.
"There's great pent-up demand for blood," said Dr. Paul McCurdy, director of blood services for the Red Cross.
"Hospitals which normally have a one- to two-week supply had been down to a one-day supply themselves."
After the national plea was issued last week, the District Red Cross collected just under 5,000 units of blood, making it the best week the agency has had since 1975.
"We're now meeting all the elective surgery and support needs," said McCurdy. "But we need two solid weeks of donations of 900 units a day to be out of the woods."
In the last month, donations were under 500 units a day in the District. According to a survey performed for the National Association of Blood Banks, unfounded fears that giving blood is connected to acquired immune deficiency syndrome resulted in a decline in donations across the country.
To help meet the national shortage, the director of the Office of Personnel Management recently asked all federal employes to give blood.
Constance Horner, director of OPM, called the directors of the government's 10 regional offices and asked them to encourage federal workers to give blood.
"Things are looking better across the country," said Gilbert Clark, director of the American Association of Blood Banks. "With 3 million federal employes in action, our members are getting a lot of calls."
Federal employes currently donate between 30 and 40 percent of the blood collected by the Red Cross in the District and 25 percent of the blood collected in the region, according to McCurdy.
In an attempt to boost donations, the local office of the Red Cross at 2025 E St. NW plans to keep its walk-in center open this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
"We're hoping that, as a tribute to Martin Luther King, people may donate blood," McCurdy said of the center, which is named for Charles R. Drew, a black surgeon who pioneered several techniques for storing and reusing blood.