Hospitals’ needs drive blood donations in July

By Wayne Bryan Published July 13, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: William Harvey

Supervising phlebotomist Vanessa Perez checks for a vein on Jerry Garrett in the mobile unit of the Arkansas Blood Institute during a blood drive in the parking lot at the Malvern Walmart Supercenter. Several blood drives are slated for this summer in communities across the Tri-Lakes Edition coverage area.

This summer, there are those among us who want your blood.

No, this is not the opening for a preview of a new Twilight sequel or the cliffhanger story line for the next season of True Blood. Those who need your blood are heart-surgery patients, women having babies and those injured in accidents.

“There is a daily need for blood,” said Bob Woodall, who organizes blood drives for the Arkansas Blood Institute. “St. Vincent-Hot Springs and National Park Medical Center in Hot Springs need about 45 units a day.”

“While the need is constant, there are fewer people giving blood in the summer,” said Rex Holbrook, a member of First United Methodist Church in Arkadelphia, which will be the location for an American Red Cross blood drive on Monday. “A lot of people are on vacation, the students at the two universities in town are gone, and some people don’t want to give blood in the summer, so the Red Cross casts its nets a little wider in the summer.”

The Arkansas Chapter of the American Red Cross and the Arkansas Blood Institute stepped up their pace in the Tri-Lakes Edition coverage area this month, so there is a drive somewhere in the region almost every day through the end of July and beyond.

The Arkansas Blood Institute is a not-for-profit blood bank in Hot Springs that provides blood for hospitals in the western half of Arkansas, Woodall said.

Blood was donated by residents to certified phlebotomists from the institute at the Walmart in Malvern on Monday. Another drive by the institute was held Tuesday in Gurdon.

“That was one of our Guns and Hoses blood drives,” Woodall said. “There was a little competition between law enforcement officers from the Gurdon Police Department and the Clark County Sheriff’s Office versus the local firefighters, EMTs and other first responders. Local residents could also come in and say they were giving for the Guns or the Hoses.”

The Malvern blood drive collected 22 pints, or units, of blood, and Woodall said 18 pints were collected in Gurdon.

“That’s a working-class town, and we were open from 1 p.m. until 6 p.m., and we had 14 people come in during the last hour,” he said. “If we had stayed open until 6, we might have had a lot more.”

Woodall and the Arkansas Blood Institute had blood drives in Hot Springs on Wednesday through Friday and will hold another one today.

“Wednesday was at the Hot Springs City Hall, and city employees came in to donate from around town, and people came from the convention center across the street,” he said. “We were at the Garland County Courthouse on Thursday, and we had another Guns and Hoses event at the First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall. Friday, we were at Walmart on Central Avenue.”

Today’s event is scheduled for 8:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Piney Grove United Methodist Church.

Holbrook said First United Methodist Church in Arkadelphia sponsors an American Red Cross blood drive every eight weeks.

“You can donate every 56 days, so we offer an opportunity to donate soon after that time,” Holbrook said. “We have lots of regulars, but there are always people we have never seen before.”

Holbrook said he believes just under half of the donations collected come from members of the church. The rest are from other Arkadelphia residents.

“We are convenient to the people downtown,” he said. “We get people who stop by after lunch or after work. The location and schedule work for them.”

Holbrook said the last time the church held a blood drive, in May, was the biggest day ever.

“We were right after the tornadoes, and we had a huge turnout,” he said. “I wish we could do that every day.”

Woodall agreed that major disasters bring out a lot of people, even when the need for blood has not increased.

“There was not a lot of blood needed after the last tornado in Arkansas,” he said. “After any trauma like that, people want to do something. They think, ‘Well, I can give blood.’”

But during the summer, when more blood is needed, the area not only counts on blood donors to furnish the supply, but on people to organize and facilitate the blood drives.

Holbrook said crews from the American Red Cross in Arkansas ran the event at First Methodist.

“I really just unlock the fellowship hall and make sure they have what they need,” he said. “I try to donate four times a year, but I don’t in the summer. I’ll be ready for our next time. I have given more than 4 gallons over the years.”

Woodall said the blood collected by the Blood Institute will maintain the blood supply at area hospitals.

“It is needed for surgery. I know a heart surgeon who requires four to eight units be available when he performs open-heart surgery,” Woodall said. “Often transfusions are needed in childbirth. The blood has to be there.”

Woodall said the donated blood is purchased by the hospitals, but with the institute’s not-for-profit status, the cost is kept low.

“We have to pay for the big truck, the equipment for the certified phlebotomist that draws the blood, the lab tech that checks the book and the courier that takes it to the hospitals,” Woodall said. “You don’t want any of those people to be volunteers.”

He also said that people can donate their blood for a specific person.

“Of course, we can’t promise it will be their blood actually given to the patient, but the patient will be credited with your donation,” Woodall said. “There was someone from Malvern several years ago that needed 80 units after an accident. She was credited with 60 units people donated for her. That makes a big difference.”

Staff Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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