By Daniel Perez-Crouse
“If you’re looking for something good to do, you will literally save someone’s life,” said VP for Blood Services at Bloodworks Northwest, Vicki Finson.
She is referring to how people can support others amidst the pandemic by donating blood and helping address the national blood shortage. The non-profit organization provides donor blood supplies to 95 percent of hospitals in the Pacific Northwest.
Multiple outlets and organizations over the last year have alerted people to this shortage and its effects on the healthcare system.
The American Red Cross has issued public statements about how the rise in trauma cases, organ transplants and elective surgeries requiring blood products over recent months has depleted the nation’s blood inventory.
Adding more context to the national and local shortage, Finson said once things started opening up and people felt comfortable getting treated for issues that weren’t an emergency, there was a new COVID surge crowding hospitals.
Some of the issues people waited to have treated amidst the pandemic worsened and required more care than if they were attended to earlier.
Finson said this created a “huge increase of blood needs” compounded by a decrease in the number of people donating. This was further impacted over the summer in a statement from the organization with the heat wave reducing un-air-conditioned blood drive efforts.
Bloodworks Northwest put out a call for additional help to specifically address the surge of cases brought on by the fast-approaching Labor Day weekend (traditionally with a higher potential for accidents and injuries).
“Blood donations are a challenge all the time, even pre-pandemic,” she said. “The only way you can get blood is through donors. There’s not a way to replace it.”
Because of the shortage, Bloodworks is rationing how many units they send to hospitals. Finson identifies as an optimist, but acknowledges worst-case scenarios and the reality of these limitations.
For example, if someone experiences intense trauma, like in a fatal car accident, and there wasn’t a necessary blood transfusion available, it would ultimately lead to death.
This can be potentially prevented by donors giving blood. Finson stressed the benefit and self-satisfaction that comes with donating.
Addressing people’s worries or fears over donations, like needles and health concerns, she respectfully says, “Sometimes people are looking for an excuse. A lot of people think they aren’t eligible, but they are.”
She urges people to push past the fear of the unknown with donating and extols the virtues of her staff and organization’s procedures.
“Our staff is wonderful. They’ve seen all kinds of veins and people. And if you come in and still have concerns, you can change your mind.”
All the necessary COVID-19 regulations and preventative measures are in place and everything is by appointment now. “We have kept staff and donors safe,” she said.
Blood donation is strictly regulated by the FDA in terms of procedure and frequency and these rules have been in place for years.
“The average donor donates a couple of times a year. One is better than none, but people should donate as frequently as it works for them,” Finson said.
She says donating three times a year is the sweet spot for most people who want to make a large impact while juggling the responsibilities and demands of their own lives.
Amidst all the struggles, she adds “a huge thank you to all of the people who have regularly donated.”
See bloodworksnw.org, to find appointment times and information on their safety precautions and procedures.
Photo by Kris McDowell