LI blood donors sought to help low supply

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Blood donors are being sought on Long Island to help replenish supplies considered insufficient to meet any major emergency demands during the Independence Day weekend.

The appeal from the New York Blood Center is the second major call to the public this year. In winter, officials appealed for donations in the midst of a monster snowstorm.

"Right now, the blood supply is very fragile, especially for type O-negative, which is the only type that can be transfused into all patients," said Harvey Schaffler, executive director for donor-marketing at Long Island Blood Services in Westbury, a division of the Manhattan-based blood center.

"We are under a two-day supply and that can [disappear] very quickly," he said.

Dozens of hospitals throughout the metropolitan area and Pennsylvania -- home to more than 20 million people -- depend on blood from the center.

In addition to blood, transfusion products such as plasma and platelets are also in short supply, Schaffler said. Plasma is sometimes used to replenish the blood volume of burn victims and platelets aid in clotting.

Janet Freedman, nurse-manager of the Blood Donor Center at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, said platelets are very much in demand because they're important for cancer patients on chemotherapy. Treatment destroys cancer cells as well as platelets, Freedman said.

NUMC regularly appeals to hospital staff members to donate blood and also seeks donations from the public. Despite those sources, NUMC also has a shortage.

"We are a little low on O-negative and O-positive right now," Freedman said.

Schaffler noted that donor centers will be open throughout the holiday weekend. He encouraged anyone interested in giving blood to call the blood center at 800-933-BLOOD or visit nybloodcenter.org.

"Blood is a living tissue -- it's perishable," Schaffler said. "Its only source is a volunteer. There's no substitute for human blood, and because of its short shelf life it has to be donated often."

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