Plasma Donation

COVID-19 survivor Kenneth Williams spends his afternoon donating plasma, on Wednesday January 6, 2021, at Carter Blood Care. (Michael Cavazos/ News-Journal Photo)

East Texas communities are facing a significant drop in blood donations as the country goes through the “longest national blood shortage,” putting local patient care at risk in blood transfusion needs.

According to Carter BloodCare’s website, the blood center is in critical need of O+, O- A-, B+, B- and platelet donations.

“We’ve been on a critical low, and as of (Tuesday), we have less than a one day supply… We’re not collecting enough to meet tomorrow’s needs. We’re out, we need people to come out and donate,” said Clinton McCoy, Director of Mobile Recruitment and Regional Operations. McCoy organizes community blood drives and handles the distribution of blood to partners for Carter BloodCare in East Texas.

Essentially, if there was a mass accident, there is not enough blood for those who need blood transfusions right now, McCoy said. With January being National Blood Donor month, blood centers across the area are emphasizing the public to make a difference by donating blood or hosting a blood drive.

“In all honesty, ever since the pandemic hit, we’ve been in a blood shortage… Right now, doctors and patients have to have that conversation of, ‘Who is going to receive the unit of blood that we have on our shelves?’ It breaks my heart just to think we have to have those conversations. It shouldn’t be like that,” McCoy said.

According to McCoy, Carter BloodCare supplies all hospitals in East Texas for 100% of their transfusion needs, staying local to the community.

“Whether you’re donating in Paris, Jacksonville, Palestine, Marshall, wherever we’re running to, the hospitals in all of East Texas order their blood from our production and distribution here in Tyler,” McCoy said.

During National Blood Donor month, the nonprofit blood center is urging donors to give blood at least twice in 2022 to save the lives of those within the community.

McCoy recommends donating blood at least once every season, and added if everyone donated two to three times a year, shortages would be rare. Others can donate four to five times a year.

About 40 to 50% of the population is eligible to donate blood. Donors must feel well and healthy, weigh at least 110 pounds, and be at least 16 years of age with a parental consent form. Those over 16 may donate with a photo ID.

Those donating can expect the entire process to take about 45 minutes to an hour, McCoy said. It is recommended to eat a meal before donating, as well as drinking plenty of water and fluids.

“If everybody came out and donated on schedule, the first impact is, we would (almost) never have blood shortages,” said McCoy.

He added the donor and his wife live by the life motto of living to give.

“This is a part of his community service in life, is to give back and provide blood for people of East Texas,” McCoy said.

He added the diversity of blood supply is also important as it’s hard to find sometimes because the donor pool isn’t what they need.

McCoy noted the difference compared to local plasma centers, which collect plasma to make pharmaceutical medications, vital to treatment with autoimmune diseases. Blood centers in need take units of blood, plasma and platelets and turn it into transfusion medicine directly at hospitals.

“Blood is a big part of … making life-saving surgeries possible. Heart surgeries, brain surgeries, a lot of that wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t have a ready and available supply of blood. It would be such a relief to know if a family member is going to the hospital because of a car wreck today, I don’t have to worry if there’s not enough blood to keep them alive,” McCoy said.

McCoy said National Blood Donor Month, to him, is a time to thank those who have donated and to reflect on the humbleness to be in the position to provide blood to the community.

“The blood doesn’t belong to Carter BloodCare, the blood belongs to the community of East Texas,” he said. “It belongs to the friends, families and neighbors of that community.”

Chase Bank of Tyler is hosting a two-location blood drive. The first opportunity to give will be from 9 a.m. to noon Friday, at 100 Independence Place in Tyler, and the second opportunity to give will be from 2 to 6 p.m. Friday, at 6825 S. Broadway in the parking lot on the Carter BloodCare bus. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact Shelly Ensminger at (903) 561-0894.

To encourage blood donations, Carter BloodCare is hosting a car giveaway, which automatically enters every donor who has donated at least once, into the giveaway. The new Chevy Spark giveaway ends on Friday, and those who donate will receive a free T-shirt.

All eligible donors can take the first step by scheduling an appointment to give blood to ensure its availability for patients in need. For information visit CarterBloodCare.org, call or text 800-366-2834.

 
 

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Bilingual Multimedia Journalist

I cover COVID-19 and health in the East Texas area for Tyler Morning Telegraph, the Longview News-Journal and Tyler Paper Español. Stephen F. Austin State University alumna. For story ideas, email me at rtorres@tylerpaper.com.