Victims of blast need blood

Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Billie Drake watches television as she donates blood platelets at Shepeard Community Blood Center in Augusta. Mrs. Drake said she wanted to help the victims of the Savannah sugar refinery blast, many of whom are being treated at the center.

The response of blood donors to burn victims of last week's Savannah industrial explosion is the Augusta area's largest since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, officials said Monday.

Hundreds have visited Shepeard Community Blood Center locations since Friday, donating more than 500 units, said Pamela Rascon, the director of community resources.

More than 700 units were collected in the three days after the New York terrorist attacks, she said, but "we haven't seen donations like this since then."

Officials are also reminding the public that the needs will increase as burn patients undergo surgeries in the coming weeks.

Beth Frits, a spokeswoman for the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital, said the demand for blood is going to be continuous, with more than 71 people being treated in the center.

"It's not just the people we're treating from Savannah," Ms. Frits said. "We have a full house of burn patients that are going to need blood."

During the weekend, Savannah patients at the burn center used about 200 units of blood and more than 600 units of blood products, which includes plasma, said John Doriot, the director of diagnostic services at the hospital.

Shepeard's Ms. Rascon asked that anyone wishing to donate blood call to make an appointment. The nurses will also be able to answer any questions donors might have about eligibility to donate, she said.

Centers are often filled with donors in the days after a disaster, only to have the supply drop off when blood is still needed.

On Monday one of the patients burned in the fire at a Savannah sugar refinery improved from critical to serious condition, Ms. Frits said. Sixteen patients remained in critical condition at the burn center, and three patients were discharged Sunday.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.