Blood Donor Base Diminished Due To Restrictions - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

1/9/04 - Tyler

Blood Donor Base Diminished Due To Restrictions

  Some East Texans wanting to donate blood may soon learn they are not eligible. The reason--over the past year, the FDA has implemented new regulations on blood donors, and that has eliminated 5% to 6% of the population from donating. It's proving to be a big reason why East Texas is experiencing a critical blood shortage right now. John Stanford knows first hand the need for more blood. He is an operating room technician at ETMC, and regularly sees patients use up to 40 units of blood during a single surgery. That is why he was so eager to do his part at today's emergency blood drive. But during the screening process, he was told a two year military stay in Italy means he can never donate again.

"I am perfectly healthy and I'm perfectly willing to go ahead and give the blood," said Stanford. "I have the time, and I'm healthy enough that I should be able to do that."

For a lot of potential donors like John, the growing global health concerns, like AIDS, and Mad Cow Disease, are making it increasingly difficult to give blood. The deferrals seem endless. Spend time in the military, chances are, you're deferred. Take a cruise to the Caribbean, chances are, you're differed. Spend an extended amount of time in Europe, chances are, your'e deferred.

"I feel for those people," said Tracy Stephens, who is the Director of Organizational Development for Stewart Regional Blood Center, "but the small chance that we could transmit (Mad Cow Disease) to a recipient, you know, far outweighs deferring somebody for their travel to Europe."

The challenge now becomes convincing some of the 95% of healthy Americans who don't give blood, to step up to the plate.

"We have to be very creative in how we recruit," added Stephens. "Our blood vans go all over East Texas. If you can't come here we can go there. We try to make it as easy as possible."

"Hopefully those folks will come in and starting donating for the folks that have tried but couldn't get through the screening process," encourages Stanford.

The basic requirements for giving blood are, you must be in good health, at least 17 years old and weigh at least 110 pounds. The FDA currently complicates the process by requiring 11 tests and more than 50 questions.

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