Blood Donation Centers Respond to Multiple Challenges
By Maggy Wolanske
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas — Blood donation sites were among many businesses affected by COVID-19 closures and are now implementing new strategies to encourage needed donations.
Nick Canedo, Vice President of Community Engagement for the Austin-based We Are Blood, said the shift to remote learning and working decreased the number of individuals donating.
“It’s been a challenge, pretty much for the entire past year, with motivating folks, ensuring that they understand that blood donation is still safe during the pandemic,” Canedo said.
In adapting to life during the pandemic, organizations like We Are Blood and the American Red Cross are obtaining blood donations through mobile drives and community-based partnerships.
“We had to shift to a little bit more on the community-based side, which meant that we’re working with community organizations who are open to us bringing out one of the bloodmobile rules or have a big open space,” said Lisa Morgan, American Red Cross Regional Communications Manager of North Texas.
We Are Blood partnered with student organization Texas 4000 to host a mobile blood drive on March 29 and 30. Donors visited a bloodmobile bus parked outside the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority house at 2711 Nueces Street.
UT junior Lyon Lee was one of the donors.
“I’ve seen articles with shortages, and that kind of did push me to help donate, and it’s like my donation was just like a drop in an ocean. I still feel really good,” Lee said.
Lee said donating blood was a good experience and he praised the We Are Blood staff for their support.
Blood donations are crucial as they help multiple patients in the community. Hospitals use blood to provide transfusions to patients on a daily basis.
Canedo said We Are Blood averages 200 donations a day to meet community needs in Central Texas, with about 20 to 30 of those donations collected by bloodmobile staff.
“It’s so important that we have blood donations every day, whether they’re at hosted blood drives or with people who visit our centers. What comes in, we send it out immediately for hospitals, and those patients who really rely on it get better,” Canedo said.
The donation process takes around 45 minutes.
We Are Blood also offers COVID-19 antibody testing, notifying individuals if they test positive for the antibodies and should come back to donate COVID-convalescent plasma.
Individuals who received a coronavirus vaccine can schedule an appointment as long they met the blood donor eligibility criteria.
“If you get the vaccine today and you feel good enough to go donate blood today, you can go do that today,” Morgan said.
“It is perfectly safe to do as long as you’re in good health. As long as you feel good that day, we really encourage people who are in good health and feel good that day to go out and donate.”
These organizations faced an additional obstacle with the February winter storm. We Are Blood had to shut down for five days, which placed its inventory in a critical position.
“It’s so important for us to put the word out through the local news coverage, get the word out to the community, let them know how important their donations are,” Canedo said.
The American Red Cross canceled hundreds of blood drives as donation sites faced broken pipes.
“We were excited that, the following week, places that were able to be open, were open, and we were able to kind of try to recoup some of those missing blood units from the previous week,” Morgan said.
She recommends downloading the American Red Cross app to set up an appointment at one of its donation sites.
We Are Blood lists the locations of its mobile drives online and takes donations both through walk-ups and appointments. There will be several near the UT campus through the end of the Spring semester.