New year, new opportunities to donate blood
— Created December 29, 2021 by Kathy Reed
By Kathy Reed
The season of giving doesn’t end with the holidays – especially when it comes to donating blood. This life-saving gift never goes out of style and there is always a need.
Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley will host a pop-up donor center for Bloodworks Northwest Jan. 10-11 and 17-18. Times vary, so those interested in donating can schedule an appointment online by visiting schedule.BloodworksNW.org or by calling 800-398-7888.
Maintaining a steady blood supply is critical, say Bloodworks Northwest officials.
“Blood cannot be manufactured in a lab. We rely on 1,000 donors a day across the region to help ensure we have a safe and stable blood supply,” said Hannah McNutt, community engagement liaison with Bloodworks Northwest. “Most community members don’t realize it’s not just the trauma victims that are at risk when we have no blood on the shelf. A majority of transfusions actually go to support cancer and leukemia patients. When our inventory is low, their treatments are often delayed.”
McNutt said natural disasters and local emergencies are unpredictable, adding to the importance of maintaining a good blood supply. Typically, blood bank supplies drop in the summer months and again around the holidays, owing to travel or vacation schedules. Even the winter cold and flu season can impact supplies, as donors who are unwell find themselves unable to donate.
For those who do choose to give blood, the screening process is simple and for the most part, anyone over 16 who is healthy and well is able to donate. Plus, the majority of the blood donated through Bloodworks Northwest stays in the region.
“Bloodworks Northwest is the sole provider of blood to 95 percent of the Pacific Northwest,” McNutt said. “We are proud to say that the blood collected through Bloodworks Northwest stays local. We span the western coast of Washington and Oregon. The only time blood would be used elsewhere is if there is a severe strain on another blood center and they need the assistance. For example, after a hurricane, another natural disaster, or major catastrophe.”
As with virtually everything else, COVID-19 has impacted how Bloodworks Northwest handles donations.
“Pre-COVID, we would schedule roughly 500 mobile blood drives across the region monthly,” McNutt said. “Due to our current staffing shortages and resource constraints, we are down to about 36 mobile blood drives a month. Quite the drastic difference!
“I would like to note that pre-COVID, we would operate our blood drives for a single day. Post-COVID, we now operate what we call a Pop-Up Donor Center. Essentially, it’s a blood drive that spans the course of about two weeks. We are visiting less sites monthly but are operating for multiple days at a time.”
McNutt stressed it is 100 percent safe to donate and Bloodworks Northwest is following all state and federal guidelines regarding COVID.
Bill Harper is a former Whidbey Island resident who now works at Bloodworks Northwest. He is a survivor of leukemia that was diagnosed while he was in college in 2010. Having undergone more than 265 blood transfusions during his treatment, he knows very well what the gift of blood can do for someone.
“When someone needs blood, them getting it is the difference between life and death. It’s that simple,” he said. “Blood donations make remissions, recoveries, and cures possible, and give those patients the hope and strength they need to fight. Donating blood doesn’t just make an impact; it makes treatments, recoveries, and even hope itself possible.
“What else can you do in an hour’s time that would literally help save someone’s life?” Harper continued. “It might not be you or your family today that needs blood, but if it ever were, you’d be grateful forever to those blood donors who helped you. So don’t wait – people just like you need help now. You and your specific blood type can make a unique, lifesaving impact that lasts forever.”
Call 800-398-7888 or visit schedule.bloodworksnw.org to make an appointment for the pop-up donor center at WICA, to be held Jan. 10-11 and 17-18. Visit bloodworksnw.org for more information on the donation process.