Blood banks experiencing donation decline

January 4, 2019

Blood banks are combating a seasonal drop in blood donations despite widespread population growth in the Permian Basin.

Dianne Scott, Vitalant donor recruitment supervisor, said the influx in population has not necessarily led to more donors.

“I feel like every year it has just gone down,” Scott said.

Scott said Janaury is National Blood Donor Awareness Month and she wants to see more people step up and donate. Vitalant, formerly United Blood Services, hosts about six blood drives every week in Midland-Odessa with a digitally published list available through their website.

Vitalant Donor Relations Specialist Erika Gonzales said the organization has had to work hard to meet the projected need for the area. Scott said their target goal for December was to collect about 645 units of blood for the Midland-Odessa area.

“One unit is a pint of blood,” Scott said. “One person can donate a pint of blood and save up to three people.”

Vitalant set up their Bloodmobile at Texas Oncology in Odessa on Thursday.

“Our goal was 17 units and I think we’ve only had 3 or 4 people today and we’re over half way through the blood drive,” Gonzales said.

Scott said 60 percent of blood donations come from people older than the age of 40 on a national level, but in Midland-Odessa she said high school students are vital contributors. She said the holidays are one of Vitalant’s biggest hurdles. During a holiday blood drive at MCH on Dec. 20, 53 units of blood were collected. Scott said donation numbers start lowering toward the end of November as people go out of town, bad weather conditions force the organization to cancel sites and people claim to not have any time.

Medical Center Hospital Laboratory Services Medical Director Dr. Meredith Hulsey said a single trauma patient can use up to 20 units of blood in the span of 48 hours. Hulsey said the hospital’s needs can suddenly spike if multiple people are involved in a serious car wreck.

“It’s really critical when we have these blood drives that we get people to participate,” Hulsey said. “We are a Level II Trauma Center. We are the primary trauma center for the Permian Basin and we have so many patients coming through, either with car accidents or accidents in the oil field, and we need a lot of blood product inventory to take care of all of those patients.”

Hulsey said one way the hospital is able to supplement in dire situations when there is not enough to go around is by sharing inventory with neighboring hospitals.

“I think it’s common this time of year to have a diminished inventory nationally, but of course when we hold blood drives here locally those products that are submitted from our community come back to save lives of members of our community,” Hulsey said.

Nayrel Alvarez, a Texas Oncology medical assistant, stepped into the Vitalant bus Thursday to donate blood. She said she donates at least every other year and was partially motivated by a time when her father was in an accident and relied on those same blood donations.

“There are people out there who need it and it’s nice to have the opportunity to give back,” Alvarez said.

Hulsey encouraged residents to consider adding blood donation to their New Year’s resolutions list.

“It’s an investment in your family, friends and community,” Hulsey said. “You never know when someone you love or even yourself could be in need.”

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