FORT HOOD, Texas — The nation is facing a blood donor shortage, and the Army is feeling the stress of this shortage still as we end National Blood Donor Month.
The Robertson Blood Center here is part of the Armed Services Blood Program. The center is experiencing difficulty in meeting the needs of combatant commanders and medical treatment facilities for blood donations.
Blood donor centers around the globe have been compounded due to decreased donation over the holiday season, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. Cancellations of blood drives and decreased individual donor turnout has greatly affected the amount of blood product available for those in need.
“As the U.S. military’s official blood program, the Armed Services Blood Program always has a mission to stand ready for those on the front line and the home front,” Col. Audra Taylor, ASBP Division chief, said. “We know that blood donations are mission critical to readiness.”
Fort Hood’s RBC supplies blood donations not just locally, but also to the warfighter downrange. From the time they receive a donation, test and ship, they can supply downrange organizations with blood supplies within seven days. The RBC is also different from most local blood donation organizations. As one of the 20 ASBP centers worldwide, the RBC not only collects blood supply, it also conducts its own storage, testing, separating of blood components, transfusing, and shipping around the globe. They are governed by the FDA and support all active duty, retirees, and military families.
“Historically, right after the holidays, there’s a slump in donations,” Maj. Molly House, medical director for Carl R. Darnall Medical Center Blood Services and director of the Robertson Blood Center, said. “This year has obviously created a new set of challenges, and people are getting used to isolating themselves … but (getting donors) is more imperative this month then it has been in the past.”
House wants to assure potential donors that donating is safe and easy, and that all centers have taken steps to provide additional safety measures to the donation environment. These steps include temperature checks at the front door; the wearing of appropriate personal protective equipment; social distance; and an increased placement of cleaning products and scheduling of equipment and building sanitations.
The ASBP is also collecting COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma.
“For those that tested positive for COVID-19, and have been free of symptoms for at least 14 days, they can come in for plasma donation” House said. “They do a small test to ensure they still have antibodies for COVID-19, and if so, the donation they make can be used as a therapeutic transfusion for those suffering from severe COVID-19 symptoms.”
The overall mission, however, is simple: the need is now.
“Our goal as a life-saving industry is to always provide a safe and ample supply of blood products,” Taylor said. “The need is now. Make it a point to donate today to help us all stand ready.”
For more information, you can contact the Robertson Blood Center at 254-285-5808. House and Maj. Michele Allen, deputy lab manager for CRDAMC, will also be featured on Fort Hood’s Great Big Podcast, available for download today.