War in the Persian Gulf region and a public perception of a need for blood for the troops have left the Central Maryland Chapter of the American Red Cross with double its normal supply and in the rare position of trying to slow the pace of donations.
"This is a very unusual situation," said Dr. Paul M. Ness, director of the local Red Cross blood program. "What happened is the public associated the idea of going to war with the need for a vast blood supply."
Initially there was a need, he said, noting that the war began in mid-January -- after the holidays when donations fall off and after "a bad week of snow" when blood needs increased -- and that the military called on Red Cross programs across the nation to help boost blood supplies.
The local program provided the military with 300 units of blood, and it has since been put on a standby status for any needs of Operation Desert Storm. Meanwhile, "an outpouring" of donations has left the program with twice its normal supply and the risk that some blood and blood products could become outdated and go to waste.
Nationally, the Red Cross has estimated that 10 percent of the blood donated last month for possible use in the war -- as much as 12,500 gallons -- will have to be dumped.
Dr. Ness cautioned that there remained a need for fresh blood for special purposes and products and said people who regularly donate blood should continue to do so. But there is no need for individuals or organized blood drives to move up the time of donations.