RALEIGH — Those people whose blood type is also a chirpy little motto ("B(e) Positive"), have little trouble remembering it when they roll up their sleeves to donate blood. The problem is that the B positive types, as well as the As, Os and ABs among us, are forgetting to give blood to begin with.
Jim Johnston, executive director of the Red Cross, says blood needs constant replacement. Not just because it is transfused into patients, but because it can be stored only so long.
"It only has a shelf life of 42 days. You can't stockpile it through the down times because of the shelf life. It must be collected on a steady basis," he said.
Blood, of course, is needed for surgery both for accident victims and scheduled operations. But there's also demand from people with chronic diseases, such as leukemia and multiple myeloma.
Anthony Hitchcock has been getting blood to help him deal with his leukemia. But he drops the Red Cross's blood collection offices to thank donors. He thinks it helps them to see that it directly affects the lives of recipients, and that it will inspire them to give again.
Hitchcock says receiving the blood has been his life, that without it he would be dead. And he recalls that before he was sick he used to say he was too busy to donate.
"If I had known then what I know now," Hitchcock says, "I would have donated every single solitary time."
The Red Cross says the need is critical right now. Five of the eight major blood types are down about 75 percent. Soon the Red Cross may urge hospitals to put off elective operations.
The holidays, flu season and bad weather have contributed to the shortage.
Donation is a simple, relatively painless matter. You fill out a questionnaire, your blood is typed and with a quick needle stick you are ready to donate. In just a few minutes the donation is complete, and you are rewarded with some orange juice and a sugar cookie.
The biggest reward, of course, is that at some point within the next 42 days the blood you have given may save a life or ease some pain. And you can "B positive" about that, no matter your official blood type.