RUMFORD – On any given day, 50 percent of the nation’s population is ineligible to donate blood due to medical issues, diseases, illnesses or medications, according to American Red Cross Blood Services in Portland.

“Out of that other 50 percent, only 5 percent donates blood. That’s 5 percent of the population who keep blood going for the other 95 percent. There is a huge shortage of donors; that’s why we’d love to have new donors,” Red Cross donor recruiter Paul Flanagan said on Thursday by phone in Portland.

“People just are not giving. I think people’s minds are on a lot of different things right now, like the economy and elections,” he added.

The donor shortage is creating severe shortages of blood across the Northeast and nationally of O-positive blood – the most common type and first to feel shortage pinches – and O-negative. Universal O-negative blood is particularly useful because it can be used in emergencies when the optimum match for other blood types can’t be found, Flanagan said.

That’s why anyone with O-positive and O-negative blood will be asked to participate in the Red Cross’s Double Red program. This involves using a special machine which takes whole blood from a donor, removes only red blood cells and puts the rest back into the donor, according to Rumford Hospital spokeswoman Jane Bubar.

“People with O-positive and O-negative blood, we’d like to put on Double Reds, because it’s so valuable for us to try to collect the most red blood cells. We’d be getting two pints as opposed to one pint of whole blood,” Flanagan said.

With less than a one day supply of some blood types, the Red Cross has been forced to cut shipments of blood to area hospitals.

“In Maine, we collect 300 pints a day to meet the needs of Maine hospitals, except Maine Med in Portland, which has its own private blood supplier. … We supply almost all hospitals in Maine, and their inventories are at minimal levels,” Flanagan said.

The Red Cross collects blood daily from donors at its two centers – one in Portland, the other in Bangor – and conducts four to six mobile blood drives every day.

A mobile drive will be conducted from noon to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 8, at the Rumford American Legion at 184 Congress St.

Of Maine towns where the Red Cross collects blood, Flanagan labeled Rumford as one of his best.

“The populace there is just outstanding. They show up at every blood drive. We do very well there. Rumford is a very supportive community as far as blood donations go. They have an older populace that donates every eight weeks. We’re looking at collecting 125 pints in Rumford that day,” he said.

That was news to Bubar. Rumford Hospital helps conduct the drive.

“One hundred and 25? In July, we had the best drive we’ve ever had – we collected 102 pints,” Bubar said on Thursday afternoon. “I don’t know if we can pull that off again.”

She said Rumford Hospital hasn’t had any trouble getting what it needs for blood. However, it sees a shortage of donors, in part because high school seniors leave to attend college out of state.

“What makes a good donor is that passion they have, and then we just lose them to college. We’ve gotten a lot of kids who’ve donated, but when they reach college age, they go away and are not available,” Bubar said.

In Maine, the minimum age to give blood is 17, although children younger than 17 can donate with signed parental consent.

“But before they can donate, they must have a picture ID. A lot of our first-time blood donors don’t know that,” Bubar said.

Eligible blood donors can contact Rumford Hospital at 369-1000 or call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE to make an appointment to donate at the Oct. 8 drive. Walk-ins are also welcome.

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