By Matt Nagle
During the recent coronavirus pandemic, the local blood supply at area hospitals took a hit as social distancing rules forced Bloodworks Northwest to cancel numerous blood drives, which help supply blood to more than 90 area hospitals. To remedy this significant public health risk, Bloodworks has come up with a solution – “Pop-Up Donor Centers” – to help rebuild the blood supply just as Gov. Jay Inslee announced plans this week for hospitals to resume some elective surgeries.
Beginning May 4, Bloodworks Northwest will be bringing their Pop-Up Donor Center to the Commencement Bank Summit Club at Cheney Stadium, 2502 S. Tyler St. Another South Sound pop-up center is already underway at Canterwood Golf Club in Gig Harbor, 12606 54th Ave. NW.
“This is a story of constant adaptation,” said Bloodworks Northwest CEO and President Curt Bailey. “The boulder that COVID-19 threw into our ocean caused these new swells to emanate and we just adapt. The Pop-Up Centers are a great example. Our mobile drives were no longer adequately safe, so we brainstormed about an alternative approach.”
Whereas the mobile blood drive set-up couldn’t adhere to social distancing regulations, and provide Bloodworks with 60 percent of its blood supply, the Pop-Up Donor Centers proved to be the perfect solution to keep staff and donors six feet apart and to store equipment overnight. The Pop-Up Donor Centers also bring the drive to the people, since the Bloodworks Center nearest to Tacoma and Gig Harbor is in Federal Way.
“This is something that we are very proud to be part of,” said Canterwood Golf Club General Manager Tyler Hathaway. Their pop-up donor event began on April 29, with full sign-ups and about 60 units of blood being donated, almost predominantly from Canterwood members and the local community. “We had a great response from our members, which is fantastic. Our members here are jumping at the opportunity to help.”
The Pop-Up Blood Centers began with the Seattle Mariners offering Bloodworks the use of T-Mobile park, with the Seattle Seahawks, Sounders FC and Seattle Storm putting out a call to their fans to donate as well. Partners with the Tacoma/Gig Harbor pop-up include Tacoma Rainiers and Cheney Stadium, Tacoma Defiance, OL Reign FC, Metro Parks Tacoma and Club Corp. Sponsors are the Rainiers Sports Shop (offering discounts on merchandise to donors), 7 Seas Brewery (offering 20 percent off next visit to donors who mention that they donated with Bloodworks NW), See’s Candy, Tim’s Cascade Snacks and Pepsi.
“Without the support of the teams, we would be in even more of a blood shortage than what we’re experiencing,” said Linda Lowry, Bloodworks business development representative.
It takes 1,000 people donating every day to ensure Bloodworks has a safe and stable blood supply for all who need it. Right now, because the state restricted the performance of elective procedures, many of which require blood, the community is using less blood, with Bloodworks collecting about 25 percent less or so than normal. Now that Gov. Inslee is allowing some elective procedures to take place, Bloodworks is on a mission to bring the supply back up to normal levels.
“We’re entirely confident that we can support the restart of elective procedures in our state,” Bailey said, thanks to generous people who will take part at the Pop-Up Donor Centers.
Bailey explained how the need for blood right now is imminent, as procedures that were postponed for the past month need to happen now.
“Those could be a cardiac or heart procedure, a surgical procedure for a child, treatment for cancer that got put off, chemotherapy that the oncologist decided to defer for a short time, or a stem cell or bone marrow transplant,” he said, noting that these procedures are not truly elective but rather “emergency postponements,” as he called them.
“We need blood for those folks and it is thousands and thousands of people, not just a handful. As doctors get comfortable with the safety of doing these procedures, we need to be at the ready and we need the blood that supports them.”
The need for blood is also critical among women giving birth. As Bailey explained, “If there is an unexpected severe maternal hemorrhage, if it’s bad enough the doctor will ask for a massive transfusion and that will include group ‘O’ blood as well. When mom is having a life-threatening hemorrhage at delivery, the group ‘O’ blood is what they need potentially to live. Post-partum hemorrhage is the leading cause of death at delivery so we need blood to keep our moms safe.”
Blood platelets are another critical need. “Platelets are in your blood to cause your blood to clot. They only last for five days so we have to continuously replenish the stock of platelets for patients who need them, and those patients often are cancer patients, to keep them alive,” Bailey said.
Bloodworks is encouraging only healthy individuals ages 16 and older to donate. All donors will be screened to ensure that they are feeling well, and not showing signs of illness, including fever. Trained Bloodworks staff will conduct all check-ins and moderate registered donors to comply with all federal regulations. Donating blood is a safe activity, and there is no risk of contracting coronavirus from the blood donation process. Bloodworks staff will vigilantly clean materials, beds, surfaces, and equipment between every donor, ensuring a very safe experience.
It’s important to note that all blood collected by Bloodworks stays in the Pacific Northwest – in Washington, Oregon and three hospitals that Bloodworks services in Alaska. All blood types are needed, especially “O” positive and negative, being the most flexible types of blood.
Only donors with appointments will be accommodated, so registering for an appointment is highly encouraged. No children under 16 are allowed at blood drives in order to protect the safety of everyone present. Registrations information and daily schedules can be found at https://tinyurl.com/yb3ymhtd.
Bloodworks provides blood for transfusions, patients receiving organ transplants and cancer treatments, and to patients with bleeding disorders and blood disease. Bloodworks Northwest is also a research institute and is currently participating in the COVID-19 antibody research involving those who have contracted and recovered from the virus. Learn more at www.BloodworksNW.org.
One recent Bloodworks donor shared thoughts of how empowering it is to give blood at this time. “Yesterday during a radio interview, the interviewer mentioned that a good friend of hers, who was recently laid off from a restaurant job, found comfort in donating blood with us. It gave her positive hope and a belief that we’ll all get through this by helping one another through it.”