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story.lead_photo.caption Ray Angle reads a book while donating blood Tuesday at LifeShare Blood Center in Texarkana, Texas. The center, at 4020 Summerhill Road, is unable to fill hospital orders and is rationing blood, officials said. Photo by Hunt Mercier / Texarkana Gazette.

Blood donors are urgently needed at LifeShare Blood Center which issues an emergency appeal Tuesday.

The region's blood supply is lower than it has been for years.

"This is the most critical we've been in a very long time," said Elizabeth Cunningham, LifeShare regional director. "The main reason is people just haven't been coming here lately and we're about to head into summer months which is slower for us. We went through the holiday, we're still low and we're about to hit our summer period too."

LifeShare is unable to fill hospital orders and is rationing blood.

"Hospitals may ask us for 20 units, but they only get 10. We can't send what we don't have. We consider an adequate blood supply to be about a three-to-five day supply of red blood cells. This weekend we had as little as an 8 hour supply of some blood type," said Benjamin Prijatel, senior director of blood operations.

Hospitals are stressing the importance of local blood donations.

"The hospital blood banks in Texarkana work hard to be good stewards of the blood supply in the community. The shortages are the most challenging part of that effort. Blood shortages in a community can directly impact patient care. Less than 7% of the population have type O-negative blood, yet it is the most important blood type in trauma situations. A whole blood donation is separated into three components, so it can impact the care of three patients. Blood is a scarce commodity that can only be replaced by the people in the community," said Tim Powers, director of the Wadley Regional Medical Center laboratory.

And while CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System officials said they have enough blood in stock, they still emphasized the importance of donating blood.

"CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System currently has the appropriate stock of blood/blood products on hand. We encourage anyone in our community who is eligible to donate blood to be responsive to Lifeshare's appeal so that hospitals and other health care providers in our area will have the blood resources needed in upcoming days," said Francine Francis, CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System director of communication.

LifeShare is asking anyone who is eligible to donate blood.

Those who can't donate are being asked to encourage those who can to give and share information about the current crisis to their friends and family.

"Anyone in the community can help us overcome this situation," Cunningham said in a press release.

"Come and donate. We need all blood types. People can donate every 56 days ans depending on what type of procedure it takes 30 to 45 minutes," she said.

More information about donor eligibility and upcoming blood drives can be found at LifeShare.org or by calling 903-794-3173. LifeShare Blood Donation Center is located at 4020 Summerhill Road, Texarkana, Texas.

LifeShare is open from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, according to the LifeShare website.

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