By Curt Bailey, president and CEO, Bloodworks Northwest
Every day, patients in King County depend on a safe and reliable local blood supply from Bloodworks Northwest.
These patients include people with cancer, trauma victims, transplant surgeries, premature babies, mothers experiencing life-threatening bleeding after giving birth, and even severely ill COVID-19 patients.
For the health of our community, it’s critical that 1,000 people donate blood every day. Potential blood donors are exempt from the statewide Stay Home, Stay Healthy stay-at-home order, which does not include essential health services, such as those provided by Bloodworks Northwest and its donors.
After a surge in cancelled blood drives due to the closure of schools, colleges, businesses, and events in response to the coronavirus outbreak in the Pacific Northwest, 60% of the community blood supply was in danger of collapse. Bloodworks sounded the alarm and the community responded. Humble heroes donating blood and saving lives and today our blood inventory is stable.
It’s clear now that this massive public health crisis will go on for months, and we anticipate further shocks to the blood supply in the coming days and weeks. Blood is perishable, so it will take a community commitment to keep the shelves stocked for the transfusion needs that are coming.
Because of donated blood……
Because of donated blood, patients who come from far and wide to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance are able to receive treatment; one third of all donated blood goes to persons fighting cancer and other blood disorders. Chemotherapy and radiation deplete blood cells, surgeries can cause life-threatening bleeding, and the stem cell transplants some patients need for a cure wipe out a patient’s bone marrow, where blood cells are made.
Because of donated blood, patients rushed by ambulance or helicopter to Harborview Medical Center, the only Level I trauma and burn care center in Washington, Alaska, Idaho, and Montana, can stop bleeding and make up for the blood they’ve lost. First Responder vehicles carry blood from Bloodworks to sustain these patients before they even enter the emergency room.
And because of donated blood, kids at Seattle Children’s Hospital (and their parents) are able to rest easy, knowing they have a lifeline while going through the unthinkable; as a father of three, I can’t imagine anything worse. More than 12,000 units of blood components are transfused each year at Children’s during surgeries, organ transplants, cancer treatment, and to treat premature babies.
This isn’t even to mention the many other local hospitals and clinics served by Bloodworks, who depend on a safe and reliable local blood supply.
A sudden drop in blood donations has consequences that put time-sensitive surgeries and patients at risk. While hospitals have postponed elective surgeries for now, patients representing all blood types still need blood every day. Cancer, accidents, births, and organ transplants never take a break.
Healthy people must step up by making appointments to give blood and keeping their commitments to save lives. Businesses must make blood donation part of their emergency preparedness plans and appoint someone to ensure the plan happens.
Blood donation is a safe action.
Blood donation is a controlled activity conducted using strict sanitation measures intended to assure the safety of donors, staff, and patients receiving transfusions. Routine blood donor screening methods are expected to reliably protect the blood supply, and there have been no reported cases of transfusion-transmitted coronavirus. There is no risk of contracting coronavirus from the donation process. Bloodworks’ policies comply with FDA, CDC, King County Dept of Public Health, and other applicable recommendations related to Covid-19 (coronavirus). We are closely monitoring our local situation and making adjustments as the situation evolves.
This is an unstable environment, so to better manage the changes as they happen and meet community needs we’ve shifted from welcoming walk-ins to scheduled appointments only at all Bloodworks Donor Centers – this allows us to keep everyone safe. Additionally, we’ve spaced out center appointments, paused all blood drives until May 4th, and no one under age 16 is permitted on-site. These measures ensure safe social distancing and a safe, controlled experience at our centers for all donors and staff. That means it’s even more important for donors to keep their appointments, and to schedule their next appointment now for April, May or June to ensure blood will always be available. It also means that we will need to make real-time decisions to shift or add appointments and ask our donors to be flexible and responsive with us. Working arm-in-arm together, we’ll ensure our community weathers this crisis.
Activities essential to the healthy function of our community, such as donating blood, are an important aspect of emergency public health preparedness and a way for people to look after their family, friends, and neighbors who experience trauma and chronic conditions.
How to give blood
Make your appointment at one of our King County donor centers (Bellevue, Central Seattle (First Hill), Federal Way, North Seattle, and Tukwila) by visiting bloodworksnw.org or by calling 800-398-7888.
And to everyone who sustains the community by giving blood, and to all those who are not eligible to give but would roll up your sleeves in a heartbeat: you are extraordinary. Thank you.