Blood supplies may fall shorter with stricter FDA restrictions

Since 1994, Carson City resident Ed Slaton has given United Blood Services 218 units of platelets, enough to make anyone woozy.

But starting April 1, due to Federal Drug Administration fears about mad cow disease, Slaton's giving will come to an abrupt end. And all he has to show for it is a T-shirt.

Starting Saturday, donors who have spent at least six months of cumulative time between 1980 and 1996 in the British Isles and the Virgin Islands will no longer be eligible to give blood.

The years that Slaton spent stationed in England as an Air Force weapons specialist disqualify him from giving blood now and possibly for the rest of his life.

"During those years there were a lot of people stationed in all of the armed forces," he said. "What I want to know is, if they think it was such a big problem, why did they wait until 2000 to stop the blood donations.

"And where is England going to get their blood," he joked.

Laura Young, a donor services technician for United Blood Services in Carson City, said the loss of Slaton's generosity will be a thorn in the organization's side.

"If we lose Ed, we are going to lose a lot," she said. "He donated every two weeks."

Young said the blood bank, at 256 East Winnie Lane, averages about 10 to 15 donors a day. Even so, the demand for blood exceeds the supply.

The loss of donations due to the new FDA regulation could spell disaster for blood services in the United States, said United Blood Services Technical Director Ron Newton. He is predicting a 2 percent drop.

"I think it's going to have a disastrous affect," he said. "We're not sure what the FDA is going to do. There is no evidence of a human case of Creutzfeld-Jakob (mad cow) disease from a blood transfusion."

The administration promises to periodically review the regulation, Newton said. "It's precautionary," he said. "Since the HIV scare the FDA has been real conservative."

An additional thorn is that United Blood Services has to notify past recipients of suspicious donor's blood, which mean each hospital that used blood from a traveler to Britain will be called and they will have to call the patients.

Meanwhile, Slaton says he's hoping to make one last donation before the new guidelines go into effect.


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