Thursday, March 20, 2003

Maine blood heads to Navy

Published in the Current

The U.S. Navy has asked the Maine Blood Center in Scarborough to send donated blood to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., to respond to additional need for blood by the armed forces.

MBC normally collects blood donations from around the state and provides blood and platelets to Maine Medical Center and other local hospitals. One place that has hosted blood drives over the past eight years is the Supervisor of Shipbuilding facility, a U.S. Navy site near Bath Iron Works, according to Kathy Carmichael at MBC.

In exchange for permission to collect blood at a Navy site, MBC had to agree to send blood to the Navy upon request, Carmichael said.

“The time has come,” she said. Mainers have benefited from blood donations by Navy personnel, and now it is time to repay the debt, she said.

Carmichael declined to be specific about how much blood MBC is sending to the Navy. “It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to put a bit of a strain on us,” she said. She also did not know how long the Navy would need MBC to continue to send blood.

Carmichael did not know why the Navy needs the blood, but speculated that some prospective donors in the military may have been inoculated against smallpox, making them ineligible to give blood.

Kevin Sforza, a spokesman for the National Naval Medical Center, said MBC sends two units of platelets to the hospital each Friday.

Platelets are in high demand because they expire in five days and cannot be frozen like whole blood can.

Many of the hospital’s usual donors have been rendered ineligible, either by being vaccinated against smallpox or other diseases in preparation for war, or by being exposed to West Nile Virus, Sforza said. “Having sufficient blood supplies ready to use is crucial to military effectiveness,” he said.