JOHNSON CITY - When dozens of Virginia Tech students were whisked away in ambulances on Monday after Cho Seung-Hui's deadly shooting spree, Blacksburg hospitals suddenly found themselves in desperate need of blood.
The American Red Cross responded by transferring units of blood from other regions to fill the need, including some from Northeast Tennessee. Now Red Cross officials in Johnson City are asking local residents to help replenish those supplies.
"One of the beauties of the Red Cross system is that we can support each other quite efficiently if there's a need in another region, and if we had a need in our region, of course, those other regions would support us as well," said Gwen Hunter, coordinator of the Red Cross Blood Donor Center on State of Franklin Road. "I think any time there's a tragedy, we have such big hearts and we want to be able to do something. This is something that we can do to show support of people everywhere who need life-saving blood."
Currently, the greatest needs are for O positive, O negative, B negative and A negative, but all types are needed, Hunter said. The overall inventory of blood in the Carolinas region is currently at less than three days' supply, with O types falling to one day or less.
A few other factors have affected the region's blood supply recently, including allergy season, which has caused many regular donors to stay home. Also, the need for blood continues to rise, Hunter said, "because there are so many more uses now than there were a few years ago."
"We normally think of blood in times of emergency. If somebody has a serious accident or a gunshot wound, we know they're going to need blood. But many, many diseases are treated with blood products too. We treat cancer patients so much more effectively now, and a lot of platelets are used in a treatment of a variety of diseases, so that increases the demand."
In order to donate blood, you must be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in general good health. People who have diabetes or high blood pressure are eligible to donate as long as their glucose or blood pressure levels are well controlled.
The Johnson City Blood Donor Center is open every Monday from 2:30 to 7 p.m. and Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The center also will be open this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
East Tennessee State University Campus Ministries will hold a blood drive today from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the United Methodist campus ministry building, 1100 Seminole Drive. Blood drives also will be held April 26 at First Baptist Church, North Main Street, Greeneville, from 1 to 6 p.m. and April 27 at Lowe's in Elizabethton from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
To schedule an appointment to donate blood at one of the drives or at the donor center at 315 North State of Franklin Road call 928-7541 or 1-800-448-3543.