The Blood Bank of Alaska is running dry from a critical shortage in donations this winter.
Each month the bank requires at least 2,000 units of blood to meet the demands of Alaska residents. Right now they're down to 700 units between both the Wasilla center and the Soldotna center, said Rita Wydra, manager of the Blood Bank of Alaska Kenai Peninsula Center.
"We're really short and we need help," Wydra said. "We need people to come in and donate."
The bank is critically low on supplies of type O-negative blood, and short on other types as well. As of Friday the bank needed 200 units of O negative to replenish its supply.
Blood donations typically decrease during the winter, due to the weather, the holidays and other factors, Wydra said. But this year's decline in donations has been greater than most years.
"I don't know what it is," Wydra said. "Maybe it's a remnant of Sept. 11, everything kind of changed since then."
Blood donations went up on the Kenai Peninsula, as they did across the nation, immediately following Sept. 11. On Sept. 13 the Kenai Peninsula Center had to start turning donors away because it had all the blood it could take.
Wydra's concern is that people who were turned away from donating then may be upset with the blood bank and not donating now.
"It's like they were getting crossed messages," Wydra said. "Maybe that's why donations are down, because they didn't know why we had to (turn them away)."
Wydra is also concerned that donors are unhappy with the Kenai Peninsula Center bank because the staff is having to spend less time in the office and more time out conducting blood drives.
"People love to have a hometown community center that they can drop by and donate, but it's hard for us to keep it open because we have a small staff," she said. "So if people aren't coming in to support the center, then we have to go out on more drives. We would love to stay in-house every day. We have to get more blood to get more employees to keep the center open longer."
Response to blood drives has slackened as well this winter. To combat declining donations, the blood bank is trying to reward donors with coupons from area merchants, prize drawings and other promotions.
The Kenai Peninsula Center will celebrate its third year in operation during March. The center's staff will have cake for donors and the public to enjoy March 1 and 2 at the center. The center is open for appointments from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays and for walk-ins Thursdays and Fridays, if the staff is in the office. For office hours and blood drive locations, call 260-5672.
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