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CAMP LESTER, Okinawa — The Armed Services Blood Bank Center here is asking folks to roll up their sleeves and give the gift of life — especially if your gift is O-positive or O-negative.

The center is always in need of blood, but according to blood donor recruiter C. Tracy Parmer, it’s in dire need of O types. Thirty-eight percent of the U.S. population is O-positive, but only seven percent is O-negative, she said.

“When you bring those numbers to this island it makes our percentages lower, and then throw in deferments … that really hurts,” Parmer said. “It’s really important that people with those types of blood come in and give.”

Air Force Capt. Katrina Ghazanfar, the deputy director of the center, said O-negative can be given to people with any blood type. As a result, O-negative is “the first blood type pulled from the shelves in an emergency,” she said, adding that Okinawa’s U.S. population is about 4 percent O-negative. “Everybody wants O-negative, and we just don’t have enough to go around.”

So for the next several days the center has lined up blood drives around Okinawa. On Monday, a drive at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa netted five units of O-negative, Ghazanfar said toward the end of the drive — definitely a step in the right direction.

The center’s shelves recently were emptied of O-negative after it was needed for a motorcycle accident victim in mainland Japan, Ghazanfar said. A frozen stockpile is kept, but it can take hours to thaw and potentially may not be ready when needed, she said. There is a backup plan in which the center here can be resupplied by the Armed Service Whole Blood Processing Lab-West at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., via Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii, but that can take one or two days.

The Okinawa-based center supplies blood throughout the Pacific, as well as to deploying units, Ghazanfar said.

To help boost attendance at Monday’s Naval Hospital blood drive, commanding officer Navy Capt. Peter F. O’Connor went door-to-door in the hospital reminding his staff of the event.

“I wanted to make a big push at the hospital to emphasize the importance of giving the gift of life,” said O’Connor, who also made cookies for donors. O’Connor also has started a program in which hospital staffers get a day off work when they donate four times, and he said quarterly drives will continue at the hospital. “Because of the operational tempo and the requirements [to donate blood], the donor pool has dwindled,” O’Connor said. “It’s a vital need, and it’s critical for our folks who are deployed.”

Where you can donate

The Armed Services Blood Bank Center has scheduled six blood drives on Okinawa over the next nine days. The schedule is:

Kadena Air Base: Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Building 775.Camp Hansen: Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the USO.Camp Courtney: Monday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the chapel.Camp Shields: Tuesday from 6:30 to 11 a.m. in Building 8210.Camp Foster: April 26 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center.Camp Kinser: April 27 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Kinser Surfside.All published blood drives are open to servicemembers, Department of Defense civilians and family members 17 and older.

While mission requirements may require the cancellation or rescheduling of a blood drive, donors may confirm a specific drive as it draws near by going to www.oki.med.navy.mil and clicking on “Info for Patients and Community,” then “Blood Donor Program,” or by calling the Armed Services Blood Bank Center at DSN 643-7737.

Contact donor recruiter C. Tracy Parmer at DSN 643-7710 or 7737 or via e-mail at: parmerct@oki10.med.navy.mil for more information, or to schedule a blood drive for your command.

— Fred Zimmerman

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