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Blood supplies hit critical lows in Puget Sound area

Puget Sound Blood Center is encouraging blood donations as supplies in Washington have reached critically low levels.

Puget Sound Blood Center announced Monday that it is has less than a two-day supply of blood types O-, A- and B-. A four-day inventory is considered operational. Cascade Regional Blood Services, which supplies blood to South King and Pierce County hospitals and medical centers, has an adequate blood supply right now. Cascade Regional is anticipating a decrease in donations as the holidays approach, said Kim Rushing.

The low blood supply is due primarily to the late November ice and snow storm. Puget Sound Blood Center lost an estimated 1,200 donations due to donors' inability to reach the center. Mobile blood drives by both blood centers were canceled due to the weather.

Current supply levels are alarming not only because they are low, but because the holiday season has arrived. This time of year traditionally brings inclement weather and increased demand on donors' time. Cascade Regional's blood supply could change overnight if nasty weather hits again, Rushing said. Donations generally slow down during the holidays while the need for blood remains steady, said Michael Young, Puget Sound Blood Center spokesman.

"Blood donations kind of slip in priority on the to-do list," he said.

Blood from Puget Sound and Cascade Regional is used when patients in Federal Way, King County and Western Washington need blood transfusions due to injuries or disease. Blood supply is calculated based on the amount of blood that hospitals and medical centers need on a daily basis, Young said. Donations of all blood types are essential, but type O- is especially important, he said. This blood type is critical to people in urgent need of medical care. A transfusion using O- cuts down on the time the patient must wait to be treated because it sidesteps a test to determine the patient's blood type.

"O- is known as the universal blood type because it can be given to anyone," Young said.

The two blood centers require hundreds of daily donations just to maintain operational blood supplies. In the South King County area, Cascade Regional Blood Services must receive donations from more than 130 people per day in order to fill requests by local hospitals and medical centers. Puget Sound Blood Center serves a larger clientele base, and needs 900 daily donations at its 11 donor centers to maintain operational blood supplies in Western Washington.

Cascade Regional Blood Services is the sole blood provider to Federal Way's St. Francis Hospital. It serves 10 hospitals and medical facilities in Federal Way, Tacoma and Puyallup. Puget Sound Blood Center serves 14 counties in Western Washington and supplies blood to more than 70 hospitals and medical centers.

If the blood centers are unable to collect enough donations to supply local hospitals and medical centers, they will seek blood from centers outside the community, Young said. This delays treatment to patients who need blood transfusions, he said. This rarely happens because Western Washington donors are generally responsive to Puget Sound Blood Center's request for donations, Young said.

"Usually, when we put the word out that we have a need, the public responds very generously," Young said. "We're fortunate that the donor base in Western Washington is very dedicated to maintaining the blood supply."

Get involved

• Cascade Regional operates a donation station at 909 S. 336th St., Suite B-102, Federal Way. Contact (253) 945-7974 or visit www.crbs.net.

• Puget Sound Blood Center operates a donation station at 1414 S. 324th St., Suite B-101, Federal Way. Contact (253) 945-8660 or visit www.psbc.org.

• Puget Sound will hold a blood drive from 1 to 7 p.m. Dec. 2 at St. Vincent De Paul, 30525 8th Ave. S.; from 1 to 3 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. Dec. 20 at Light of Christ Lutheran Church, 2400 S.W. 344th St.; and from 1 to 3 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. Jan. 11 at St. Theresa's Catholic Church, 3939 331st St. S.W.

• Cascade Regional will hold blood drives from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 7 at World Vision, 34834 Weyerhaeuser Way S.; 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 8 at St. Francis Hospital, 34515 9th Ave. S.; 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 9 at the Federal Way Community Center, 876 S. 333rd St.; and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 16 at Truman High School, 31455 28th Ave. S.

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