RED CROSS DESPERATE FOR BLOOD DEPLETED SUPPLY RISKS LIVES.
Southland blood banks are as depleted as the region's power reserves, and the American Red Cross is seeking donors to help avert a full-blown crisis.
``The bottom line is, people need to give blood because you never know who's going to need it,'' said Julie Juliusson, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross Southern California Region. ``It's the right thing to do. It's your one chance to be a hero.''
The shortage has restricted the Red Cross to providing blood to area hospitals only for emergency cases. Additional blood for elective surgeries is unavailable, Juliusson said.
The Red Cross has fallen short of area hospitals' demand for blood by a weekly average of 1,427 units during the past month. One unit is equal to about a pint.
The greatest need is for type O blood, both O-positive and O-negative. About 40 percent of the U.S. population has Type O blood, a figure that jumps to 70 percent among Latinos.
Los Angeles ``really needs to have its residents step up and donate,'' Juliusson said.
Fewer than 3 percent of Southern Californians donate blood, compared to 5 percent nationwide, according to a Red Cross survey. The lack of donors has forced the organization to import more than 40 percent of the blood it provides to local hospitals.
The blood shortage has hit nationwide, with the arrival of summer depriving the Red Cross of one of its most reliable donor groups - high school and college students, who are now on break.
The Red Cross also sees donations dip because more workers are on vacation during the summer months, diminishing the number of potential donors during company-hosted blood drives.
Moreover, fears over mad cow disease entering the U.S. blood supply led a federal Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Thursday to recommend tightening donor restrictions, even though doctors and federal officials told the committee that those restrictions could cost lives because of the already low blood inventory.
In California, the power crisis has caused further problems. Schools and churches, two of the most popular locations for blood drives, receive electricity at a discounted rate, making them among the first customers to have their power shut off during rolling blackouts.
That left schools and churches unsuitable for hosting blood drives this spring, officials said.
``Southern California is really in a bind this year,'' Juliusson said.
The Red Cross urges Los Angeles area residents to make an appointment to donate blood by calling (800) GIVE-LIFE. Spanish speakers can dial (888) POR-FAVOR.
Donors must be 17 or older, weigh at least 110 pounds, be in good health and not be at risk for HIV or AIDS.