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Donors Wait Hours to Give Blood, But Officials Worry About Waning Interest

By Robyn Lamb and Jennifer Dorroh
Capital News Service
Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2001

WASHINGTON - Steve Weiner, 17, had never donated blood before. But the devastation of a terrorist attack had never hit so close to home before.

The father of one of Weiner's Quince Orchard High School classmates is missing and presumed dead in Tuesday's attack on the Pentagon. So on Wednesday, Weiner and seven of his friends went to the Gaithersburg Red Cross Donor Center to give blood. 

"We were just sick of watching TV and not being able to do anything," Weiner said. 

Donor centers around Maryland were flooded Wednesday with people like Weiner, who were anxious to do their part for the victims of Tuesday's terrorist attacks against the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in New York.

Although centers could not say Wednesday how many people had given blood, many reported lines of more than 50 donors and waits of five hours or more throughout the day. The turnout was so heavy that officials were asking people to delay donations, so that there are still donors in the near future. 

To accommodate the large number of donors who have turned out, the Red Cross has expanded its hours at centers around Maryland. "We have been swamped," said Michael Thompson, a volunteer at the Towson donor center of the Red Cross. 

"Nobody's complaining, because it is for a good cause," said Sayeeda Samia, another volunteer at the center. 

Janet Mandel dropped her two children at Lake Forest Mall before joining the line of 50 hopeful donors at the Gaithersburg center. She rested in a folding chair and sipped water from a thermos she brought from her home in Bethesda.

"When I called the Red Cross they told me there would be a three-hour wait and I should bring water," she said. By the time she arrived, the estimated waiting time was five hours, but Mandel was undeterred. "I wanted to give today. We may be covered for now, but if we go to war or other things happen, we'll need more supplies," she said. 

Madhu Ghosh and Nicole Rouse, biochemists, took time off work at a Rockville biotechnology firm to donate blood. "We told them (at work) we'll be back when we get back," Ghosh said. It was important to donate today, she said, because it is not clear how much blood will be needed by victims in the next few days. 

While blood bank officials say the turnout in Maryland has been overwhelming, they are concerned that such an immediate explosion of donations will fizzle, resulting in blood supply shortages down the line. 

"If interest wanes, we'll find ourselves with a shortage," said Joy Jenson, of the Greater Chesapeake and Potomac chapter of the Red Cross. The other problem, she said, is that people who donate today must wait a minimum of 56 days before they are eligible to give blood again. So blood banks are asking that people spread their donations throughout the upcoming weeks to ensure a continuous supply of blood. 

"We're asking that the public stay with us over the next few days, into the next few weeks," said Jenson. The Red Cross is asking people to call 1-800-GIVE LIFE to schedule a donation appointment. 

CNS reporter Nora Achrati contributed to this report from Annapolis.



Copyright 2001 University of Maryland College of Journalism

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