ASBP: O, How We Need You
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O, How We Need You

By Carl Norman, ASBP blood donor recruiter, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Fort Leonard Wood Blood Donor Center, Missouri, is in need of type O-negative blood donors each week to meet the mission. O negative blood is known as a “universal” type since it can be transfused into any other blood type and is critical in emergency situations when patient blood type is unknown.
Fort Leonard Wood Blood Donor Center, Missouri, is in need of type O-negative blood donors each week to meet the mission. O negative blood is known as a “universal” type since it can be transfused into any other blood type and is critical in emergency situations when patient blood type is unknown.
It’s the rarest of its kind and yet, the most sought after. It comes from only one type of source on the planet and is only voluntarily collected.

It is type O-negative blood. Each week, the Armed Service Blood Program’s Fort Leonard Wood Blood Donor Center in Missouri, needs 13 units of this rare, lifesaving fluid to meet its mission.

“We need help from all O-negative donors,” said Army Capt. Patrick Kaer, Fort Leonard Wood Blood Donor Center officer in charge. “For the past several weeks we’ve not come close to getting the number of O-negative donors we need. We have to talk to 200 people to find the 13 O-negative donors we need.

“I believe the population in this area has enough people with O-negative blood that we could meet our goal, but maybe some of them don’t truly understand how important their type really is.”

Army Col. (Dr.) Rod Pattan, deputy commander for Clinical Services at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital, hopes to remedy that.

According to Pattan, only 7 percent of the population has O-negative blood. The proteins on the cell surface – each genetically inherited – are what make O-negative as well as all other blood types unique.

Those proteins, assigned as A and B, either have or are without an Rh factor, he said. This is how blood types (A-positive, B-negative, AB-positive, etc.) come about. Pattan said life-threatening reactions can result if people receive blood that contains proteins different from their own cells. This is where O-negative blood really earns its keep. Since it can be transfused into people with any other blood type, it is the most versatile of all the blood types.

“People with O-negative blood have none of the major proteins on their blood cells that can cause these serious reactions,” Pattan said. “So, their blood can be given to people with any other protein combinations without causing the severe reactions that can complicate unmatched transfusions. Since O-negative blood can be given to any other blood type individual, it is referred to as the universal donor.”

Pattan knows that keeping an ample supply of O-negative blood is one of the most important requirements to providing effective emergency care, at home or on the battlefield.

“If the inventory is adequate, managing emergencies is easier,” he said. “Without adequate O-negative stores, this becomes much more complicated and is prone to failure. This is especially true in emergency situations like a massive hemorrhage, because it can be given without the time-consuming process of cross-matching before it’s transfused.

“In emergencies where blood loss is on-going, having adequate amounts of O-negative blood available often determines if the victim lives or dies,” Pattan said. “In numerous cases of battlefield trauma (IED blasts, gunshot wounds, knife wounds, open limb fractures, etc.) the presence of ample O-negative blood has been the difference between stabilizing a victim and transporting them for care or them dying on the battlefield.”

Pattan still stresses the importance of all blood type donations, each one is vital for the medical system to provide the highest level of care.

“O-negative blood, however, is the most critical because it can be used in emergencies without the catastrophic risks associated with other blood types being improperly matched to the recipient,” he said.

Pattan emphasized that the inventory of O-negative blood will determine a location’s ability to effectively care for emergencies involving large losses of blood.

“If O-negative supplies are low, or exhausted, patients needing blood quickly to avoid death will be at substantial risk despite all efforts on their behalf. If you have O-negative blood, you possess a precious resource, please share it - it could very likely save a life.”

For more information about donating at the Fort Leonard Wood Blood Donor Center, or to make an appointment, e-mail For more information about the Armed Services Blood Program, visit

About the Armed Services Blood Program
Since 1962, the Armed Services Blood Program has served as the sole provider of blood for the United States military. As a tri-service organization, the ASBP collects, processes, stores and distributes blood and blood products to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and their families worldwide. As one of four national blood collection organizations trusted to ensure the nation has a safe, potent blood supply, the ASBP works closely with our civilian counterparts by sharing donors on military installations where there are no military blood collection centers and by sharing blood products in times of need to maximize availability of this national treasure. To find out more about the ASBP or to schedule an appointment to donate, please visit To interact directly with ASBP staff members, see more photos or get the latest news, follow @militaryblood on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Pinterest. Find the drop. Donate.

The Armed Services Blood Program is a proud recipient of the Army Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware Public Affairs award for journalism.