The 9/11 attacks are never far removed from the thoughts of anyone who remembers that tragic day when terrorists took down planes into three buildings and a field, killing almost 3,000 people on United States soil. Due to the overwhelming loss of life, less than 260 units of blood was needed by survivors. Yet, according to the General Accounting Office, nearly 600,000 pints of blood above normal collection came in nationwide through September and October. Most of it expired before it could ever be used. Blood banks nationwide are nonprofit organizations which can’t afford such waste, and blood donors want to know that what they so generously contribute for the common good is going to make it to a patient. So, we remember the tragic loss of life and the selflessness of blood donors who lined up and waited to donate blood in an effort to help. We also remember 9/11 as the day blood banking changed.
Fast forward to the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013. Although many people immediately appeared to donate blood in an effort to help the approximately 170 runners and spectators who were injured, the overall message from blood banks nationwide was “wait”. There was sufficient blood on hand to meet patient needs right then and people interested in donating should make appointments in the coming weeks and months. As a result, there was no “run on the blood banks” in the aftermath, and the extra 450 units of blood that went to Boston area hospitals was readily available. At the time, James Hooley, chief of Boston Emergency Medical Services said, “Anybody who arrived alive in a Boston hospital is alive today.”
Today blood bankers talk about the blood on the shelves saving lives. We don’t spread fear of an emergency. We just say we must be ready for one in advance so that all the testing is complete and each product is ready to help someone in need. We try to be “upfront” about exactly what we need to meet changing patient needs, and not collect above that. If you come in to donate as a remembrance on 9/11 in 2014, know that we do need A-, A+, O-, O+ blood in sizable amounts, a little B- and B+, and are well stocked with AB-, and AB+. Because we don’t want AB red cells to expire before it gets to a patient who needs it, AB donors will be encouraged to give platelets or plasma instead. Although we usually have enough AB red cells, we always need AB platelets and plasma which are “universally accepted” by anyone.
We update our need for blood, platelets and plasma on social media almost daily, so follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, or wait for a call, postcard or e-mail. We do try to contact the blood types we need. Please keep us updated as your contact information changes and you’ll always know when we truly need you. Thanks for keeping the blood on the shelves, in advance, to save lives.