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DC area facing ‘critical’ blood shortage

FILE - In this Dec. 20, 2011 file photo, donors give blood at a drive attempting to set a record for most single-day donations in Rutland, Vt. Federal health officials are lifting the nation’s 32-year-old lifetime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, but major restrictions will continue to limit who can donate. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

WASHINGTON — The largest distributor of donated blood in the D.C. area says they’re facing “a critical shortage of every blood type.”

Julia Ward, of Inova Blood Donor Services, told WTOP on Wednesday that Inova is in desperate need of blood. Their website depicts the status of the blood supply for every type, and Ward said “We’re facing a red-light blood level for every blood type.”

The shortage has wide-ranging implications, Ward said: Inova provides about 90 percent of the blood used in hospitals in the D.C. area, for “all of the Inova hospitals and a few others.”

People need blood for lots of reasons — many medical procedures, accidents and more — and there’s no substitute for human blood, Ward said. “All the blood transfused in our hospitals comes from volunteer blood donors.”

She said the area had been hit by increased usage and “and just needing to be prepared for whatever disasters might come our way.”

The need for blood is coming at a critical time of year, as well: Summer is a rough time for the blood supply, Ward said. “It’s nicer weather, people have vacations.”

High school students comprise a large proportion of the donor base, Ward added, and “We might not see them for the whole summer.  … We’re trying to increase our blood supply to put uis in a better position as we head into those difficult summer months.”

Ward said donating blood takes about an hour from registration to donation to refreshments. You can donate up to six times a year.

One blood donation can save up to three lives, she added, ”so if you’re looking for a way to make a difference in your community, this is a huge way.”

To make an appointment to donate blood or to learn more, you can call 1-866-BLOODSAVES or visit the Inova Blood Donor Services website.

WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this report.


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