To combat the national need for blood during the pandemic, Cascade Regional Blood Services joins Bloodworks Northwest and other donation organizations to collect blood through mobile blood drives across Washington state.
“COVID-19 has drastically affected the blood supply, nationally and locally, with one of the biggest ways being how we’ve had to cancel hundreds of mobile blood drives which gets us a lot of donations,” says Racheal Lynch, the director of donor resources at Cascade Regional Blood Services.
Lynch says Cascade Regional Blood Services is the sole blood provider for the MultiCare health systems, meaning closing because of the pandemic was never an option.
“People need blood no matter what’s happening in the world and blood transfusions happen up to every two seconds, so we have to always continue collecting blood for hospitals,” says Lynch.
Although people have still donated at all three Cascade locations, a drop in donations has occurred. Mobile blood drives take place at stores, restaurants, churches and schools, places Lynch cites as major donation hubs. Without these locations being open, Cascade has seen a drop in donations.
However, with more places reopening as of late, more mobile blood drives have been able to take place.
In response to COVID-19, Cascade Regional Blood Services, which is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, has increased health and safety measures that were already in place prior to the virus. Donors must sign that they aren’t experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms before donating and, as always, temperature and blood pressure are taken. Additionally, walk-ins are no longer accepted as donors need to make appointments before coming in.
According to Hailey Ledbetter, a registered nurse at Providence Regional Medical center, people scared to go out and donate during the pandemic should feel at ease with most blood donation centers.
“Blood donation organizations have to adhere to some of the most strict policies, hygiene and transmittable disease precautions because of the nature of what they do,” says Ledbetter.
Those who have had the virus and have recovered are encouraged to donate as well, having antibodies for COVID-19.
“If they’ve recovered then they can donate convalescent plasma, which means that they have the antibodies for COVID-19 in their system,” says Lynch.
People who have the antibodies for COVID-19 can then donate their plasma. The plasma can be used for people currently experiencing COVID-19 to help them recover more quickly.
Plasma is also needed during the shortage, as it’s commonly used for people with immune deficiencies and hemophilia along with trauma.
“Plasma is harder to get due to the complexity of attaining it, therefore making it extra important to donate if you can,” says Brandi Ledbetter, a registered nurse’s assistant.
Plasma can’t be donated at a mobile drive, but it can be done at one of Cascade’s locations in Puyallup, Tacoma or Federal Way. Platelets and double red cells can also only be donated at one of their centers.
Cascade is also in the process of trying to get a new blood donation bus to up the number of mobile drives for more donations in Pierce, King and Kitsap Counties.
This month and next, both Cascade and Bloodworks Northwest are having mobile blood drives all throughout Pierce County. People, especially those aged 16 to 24, are encouraged to donate if they’re healthy.
“It’s so powerful for someone to say that they spent 45 minutes to an hour of their time today to give a pint of their blood and help save three people’s lives,” says Lynch.
Appointments can be made on Cascade’s website, CRBS.net, with current blood drive locations and dates listed.
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