Sept. 12, 2003 – It's a constant need at local hospitals, but it's one the community can help alleviate. The need is for blood, and Juan F. Luis Hospital is asking the St. Croix community for help in collecting it.
On Sept. 20, the St. Croix Board of Realtors will sponsor a fall blood drive at the hospital. Anyone interested in donating blood can show up anytime between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. that Saturday and plan on spending half an hour or so to help alleviate a dire need.
"Blood is something we always need, but right now we need it more than usual," Debra Andrews, technician at the hospital blood bank, said.
"We try and keep and least 50 units of various types of blood at all times, and lately we have run short," Andrews said. She explained that a couple of weeks ago the hospital wanted to purchase blood from the American Red Cross in Puerto Rico but was turned down.
"They have shortages, too, and Puerto Rico couldn't sell it to us," she said, "so we made an appeal to the public."
All told, the hospital purchases nearly three-quarters of its blood supply from off-island, a proportion Andrews believes is way too high for a community the size of St. Croix. She said the blood costs the hospital $250 a pint and has a restricted shelf life of 42 days.
“If we had just five people come in every day and donate a pint of blood, that would take care of our needs," she said.
This is the second year that the St. Croix Board of Realtors has sponsored a blood drive. Realtor Carl Gotts, who is organizing the event, said last year's drive, held at Schooner Bay Market, collected 38 pints, and he hopes this year's drive exceeds that.
Last September, "we had the hospital bloodmobile come by and the turnout was good," Gotts said, "but some were turned away because the bloodmobile only has two beds. This year we are having it at the hospital's blood bank, which has four beds in their laboratory, and we're having it all day."
He noted that anyone can call the blood bank and make an appointment to donate blood anytime, but he said the blood drive highlights the need and he hopes it increases awareness. To help drum up interest in the Sept. 20 drive, DJ Roger W. Morgan will be promoting it on Mongoose Radio.
"All our members know about it," Gotts said, and that's more than 200 people.
Donating blood is simple and easy, Andrews said. Donors must be at least 17 years old and weigh at least 110 pounds. Screening is done before blood is drawn, and those wishing to donate will be told if there is any medical reason that they should not do so.
Andrews advises would-be donors to eat a "nutritious meal" earlier in the day and to drink plenty of fluids afterward. Those who donate blood must wait at least two months before doing so again.
"We hope other organizations can come forward and sponsor future blood drives," Andrews said. "We don’t have to have them here at the hospital; we can also come to you."
The Luis Hospital blood bank is located on the ground floor of the building. For more information, call Andrews at 778-6311, ext. 2616.

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