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SURGERIES HERE YET TO BE AFFECTED BY BLOOD CRISIS

Though the critical nationwide blood shortage extends to Western New York, elective surgeries are being performed on schedule in the region's hospitals.

Low blood supplies have forced the cancellation of elective surgeries in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Atlanta, the American Red Cross said Tuesday.

"We're not at that point. We're very hopeful we won't get there," said Andrea Strano, a Red Cross blood services spokeswoman in Rochester.

Nevertheless, the region's blood supply stands at a dangerously low 1 1/2 days, Strano said. The greatest need is for types O-positive, O-negative and A-positive.

"Increased donations over the next couple of weeks will be very important," she said.

Both the Red Cross and America's Blood Centers, or ABC, which together represent virtually all U.S. blood banks, are experiencing severe shortages in a season when blood supplies are usually adequate.

"This is one of the worst ones that the Red Cross has seen," Red Cross President Dr. Bernadine Healy told Reuters news service.

Healy said 32 of her group's 36 regions were on appeal, which means either that they have less than a day's supply of blood available or that they simply have inadequate supply to meet hospital demand.

Those cities in urgent need include Los Angeles, Baltimore, Detroit, St. Louis and Philadelphia, according to the Red Cross. ABC said there were severe shortages throughout the Northeast.

She said the Red Cross had advised hospitals to cancel elective surgery in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Philadelphia.

The reason for the shortage is increased demand, much of it because of the increased number of complex therapies such as chemotherapy, organ transplants and heart surgeries, which require large amounts of blood and blood products, both groups said.

Just one liver transplant can use 120 units of donated blood, ABC's Melissa McMillan said. The increase in demand far outpaces the increase in blood donations, Healy said, with donations increasing annually by about 3 percent and demand growing by 6 percent.

The Red Cross needs 80,000 units on hand daily, but now has only about 36,000 a day, according to Healy.

"People often forget for how many medical procedures blood is a vital necessity," Healy said.

Blood shortages are common during the summer, when schools and businesses are less likely to have blood drives, according to spokeswomen for both the Red Cross and ABC.

But a crisis in September is unusual and alarming, McMillan said.

"Shortages at this time of the year are uncommon," McMillan said. "It's a bit frightening, to be honest."

The Red Cross got its message across in a stark advertisement in Monday's Washington Post: "URGENT: BLOOD APPEAL. This is a crisis. More patients need blood and we urgently need your help. Please, give blood right away."

Those who wish to donate blood can call the Red Cross at (800) GIVE-LIFE, or ABC at (800) BLOOD-88, or visit the Web site www.americasblood.org.

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