Jim Johnston, executive director of the Red Cross, says blood needsconstant 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 throughthe down times because of the shelf life. It must be collected on asteady basis," he said.
Blood, of course, is needed for surgery both for accident victims andscheduled operations. But there's also demand from people with chronicdiseases, such as leukemia and multiple myeloma.
Anthony Hitchcock has been getting blood to help him deal with hisleukemia. But he drops the Red Cross's blood collection offices tothank donors. He thinks it helps them to see that it directlyaffects the lives of recipients, and that it will inspire them to giveagain.
Hitchcock says receiving the blood has been his life, that without ithe would be dead. And he recalls that before he was sick he used to sayhe was too busy to donate.
"If I had known then what I know now," Hitchcock says, "I would havedonated every single solitary time."
The Red Cross says the need is critical right now. Five of the eightmajor blood types are down about 75 percent. Soon the Red Cross may urgehospitals to put off elective operations.
The holidays, flu season and bad weather have contributed to theshortage.
Donation is a simple, relatively painless matter. You fill out aquestionnaire, your blood is typed and with a quick needle stick you areready to donate. In just a few minutes the donation is complete, and youare rewarded with some orange juice and a sugar cookie.
The biggest reward, of course, is that at some point within the next 42days the blood you have given may save a life or ease some pain. And youcan "B positive" about that, no matter your official blood type.