If you turned on your television in the immediate aftermath of September 11, you probably saw images of Americans—tens of thousands of them across the country—lining up to give blood. This patriotic offering brought tears to the eyes of many of us. Unfortunately, it created nothing but trouble for the nation’s blood banks. Faced with an unprecedented turnout, the American Red Cross and other organizations over collected so massively that they had to discard thousands of gallons of the perishable liquid. The donor crush caused a cascade of problems: Money was wasted; sub-par blood was collected; and other components, such as platelets, were neglected. Even worse was the general loss of faith in America’s blood-collection system that produced a slump in donations from which we’re still trying to recover.
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