Tag Archives: Biomedical

Blood Donors Turn Out To Give During COVID-19 Outbreak

It’s a rainy, chilly Tuesday in Fairfield, Calif., the spring blooms drooping under the March wet. The forecast mirrors the national mood amidst the COVID-19 pandemic: a sober longing for warmer, brighter days.

Inside the American Red Cross Solano County chapter office, the outlook is undeniably more optimistic. In place of the normal tables and chairs are padded beds, techs bustling about in red scrubs, glass vials, plastic tubing, gauze and the ubiquitous red blood drop stress balls. The office’s Red Cross inhabitants have made room to welcome a new team and a lifesaving service: a blood drive.

Spearheaded by Solano County Disaster Program Manager Vincent Valenzuela, the drive was organized in response to the ever-present need for blood donations. With the COVID-19 outbreak forcing many communities to shelter in place, the Red Cross has cancelled approximately 7,000 scheduled blood drives, resulting in nearly 200,000 fewer blood donations. Someone within the US needs blood every two seconds, regardless if there’s a pandemic; the need is constant.

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Solano County Disaster Program Manager Vincent Valenzuela gives blood in the Fairfield office on March 24.

“My thought was ‘why not host a blood drive (at the Fairfield office)?’” said Valenzuela, sitting in his office while waiting to give blood. “We have the space, we have the means to host a drive here, so let’s make it happen.”

And happen it did: donation slots filled quickly once registration opened online. Despite the grey skies and a late start, the drive was soon up to speed and collecting much-needed blood.

While donors may have initially been hesitant to leave their homes during the current “social distancing” mandate, the Red Cross added additional measures to ensure safety. Donors’ temperatures were taken as soon as they entered the office; anyone with a fever was sent home. Jugs of hand sanitizer were visibly stationed around the room. Donor beds, situated further apart to allow for social distancing, were wiped down with sterile wipes after each donation. Even the ever-present red blood drop squeeze balls were encased in a new latex glove for each donor.

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Red Cross volunteer Kathy Savage takes temperatures as donors walk into the Fairfield office.

These additional precautions, in step with the FDA-mandated measures already in place for blood donations, have allowed the Red Cross to continue blood procurement at drives like Fairfield and many new drives being added across the country every day. Efforts to reassure the public that it is indeed safe to venture out to give blood is clearly paying off as evidenced by the growing demand for more opportunities to give. Potential donors are requested to persist in their search for an available drive in their area, even if they must adjust the date and search radius parameters. 

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Donor beds are thoroughly wiped down after every donation.

By day’s end, the Fairfield drive had taken in nearly 30 units of lifesaving blood, potentially saving up to 90 lives. As donors lingered in the canteen area, sipping apple juice and nibbling Cheez-Its, they chatted as strangers united in a new, shared reality: the challenges of working from home, or not working at all; the best nearby grocery stores to procure eggs; the unseen elephant in every room: COVID-19.

While there are not yet answers to the many unknowns posited by the pandemic, there is reassurance in the ability to be of service to others. Please join the Red Cross by being of service to your community, your neighbors, your loved ones by giving blood – now and often. For more information and to search for a blood drive in your community, please visit RedCrossBlood.org.

Our region is helping address the severe blood shortage

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Individuals can schedule an appointment to give blood with the Red Cross by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS, or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device. (If you can’t find a blood drive in your area right now, please check back as Red Cross teams are rescheduling them as quickly as possible. Thank you!)
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As the coronavirus pandemic has grown in the U.S., blood drive cancellations have also grown at an alarming rate. As of March 18, nearly 4,500 Red Cross blood drives have been cancelled across the country due to concerns about congregating at workplaces, college campuses, and schools during the coronavirus outbreak. These cancellations have resulted in some 150,000 fewer blood donations. More than 80 percent of the blood the Red Cross collects comes from drives held at locations of this type.

Just in Northern California alone, more than 100 blood drives have been cancelled in recent weeks, resulting in the loss of more than 3,300 units of blood.

“When you consider that each unit can save up to three lives when it is separated into the different life-saving blood components, this shortfall could potentially impact close to 10,000 people,” says Justin Mueller, Donor Services Executive for the Northern California Blood Services Region.

Mueller says the Northern California Coastal Region’s four chapters are each making a special effort to reschedule blood drives. “The overwhelming support and collaboration of people across this region’s counties to help identify and gain commitments from groups to host blood drives has helped tremendously,” he says. “Just in the last 24 hours, we have had 10 locations commit to helping us fill at least 15 of the days we lost blood drives.”

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A blood drive was held recently in the Bay Area Chapter’s San Francisco office.

Mueller says Red Cross teams are also making extra efforts to safeguard the donors, volunteers, and staff at these drives — and the blood that is collected. “This can be seen firsthand by observing the additional safety measures we have put in place, including checking donor temperatures before entering the blood drive, swapping out gloves more frequently, and increasing enhanced disinfecting of surfaces and equipment. While we have spaced chairs and beds further apart to ensure better social distancing practices, I’d also encourage folks to make an appointment to help us avoid donors that would otherwise drop in at the same time causing crowds and even small groups to form.”

At each blood drive and donation center, Red Cross employees already follow thorough safety protocols to help prevent the spread of any type of infection, including:

  • Wearing gloves and changing them with each donor.
  • Routinely wiping down donor-touched areas.
  • Using sterile collection sets for every donation.
  • Preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub.

There is no data or evidence that this coronavirus can be transmitted by blood transfusion, and there have been no reported cases of transfusion transmission for any respiratory virus including this coronavirus worldwide.

Mueller is thankful for the extra effort blood-services volunteers are making during this difficult time. “We would not be able to carry out our mission without the support of our amazing volunteers,” he says. “And because of the extra safety measures that have been put in place, volunteers are needed more than ever to support this emergency effort.”

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KSBW-TV covered a weekend blood drive that was organized in the Central Coast Chapter’s Santa Cruz office. (See the station’s web and video story.)

He is equally appreciative of the people who have shown up to give blood during this challenging time. “Because of the coronavirus crisis, donors are really needed right now,” Mueller says. “If you are healthy, feeling well, and eligible to give, please schedule an appointment to give now.”

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Blood donation process:

To donate blood, individuals need to bring a blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification that are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds, and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also must meet certain height and weight requirements.

Donors can also save up to 15 minutes at the blood drive by completing a RapidPass®. With RapidPass®, donors complete the pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of donation, from a mobile device or computer. To complete a RapidPass®, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Red Cross Blood Donor App.

Christine Welch (909-859-7570, @RedCrossBloodCA, and RedCrossBlood.org) provided key editorial support for this blog post.

Danny Lucas blood drive nets 80 units of blood, almost half of which came from first-time donors

About 100 local residents turn out to honor Watsonville fire captain

Photo of Danny Lucas and his family.

Danny Lucas was joined at last Friday’s blood drive by his sons, Danny Jr. (left) and Chad (right) and by his wife, Cindi. For more photos of this very special drive, please go to this album. For a video clip of blood donor Hilary Weaver, please go here. (Photo: Virginia and Albert Becker)
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Some of the blood donors who flocked to a Red Cross blood drive in Watsonville last Friday are regular donors at the once-a-month blood drive at the Pajaro Valley Health Trust. But, on this particular day, at this particular drive, it was clear that many more came out of respect for a local resident who has given so much to his community during a 35-year career with the Watsonville Fire Department.

“When I read the story about Danny Lucas’ accident and this drive in his honor, I immediately made an appointment,” said Hilary Weaver, a Santa Cruz resident who worked alongside Lucas during her dozen years as a paramedic in the Watsonville area. Read more

Watsonville Fire Captain knows — firsthand — the value of blood donations

Danny Lucas, who miraculously survived a near-fatal hunting accident, is promoting a Red Cross Central Coast Chapter blood drive on February 21

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Danny Lucas, shown in his Watsonville backyard with his dog Stella, desperately needed two dozen units of blood to survive his brush with death. Taking time away from his own recovery, Danny is now helping to promote an American Red Cross blood drive on Friday, February 21, at the Pajaro Valley Health Trust Hall in Watsonville. (Photo: Jim Burns)
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As a 35-year veteran of the Watsonville Fire Department, Captain Danny Lucas has seen more than his share of fire- or accident-related tragedies. “I’ve had to give the worst kind of news to next of kin,” he says.

Fighting to hold back tears, he quietly adds: “I didn’t want our own sons to have to make that kind of a call to my wife.”

But, because of a hunting accident in the wilds of Montana this past November, an emergency call to Danny’s wife had to be made. Cindi Lucas was told her husband was clinging to life and that she needed to immediately travel to his bedside.

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The day of Danny’s accident, on November 20, couldn’t have been more picturesque. So much so that he had paused to snap a photo of his sons and father-in-law as they all began another day of hunting mule deer in the snow-covered hills outside Lewistown. Suddenly, a shot rang out, and Danny was struck by a large 7mm bullet.

Accidentally discharged from a rifle by a Montana resident who had joined the Lucas Family hunting party, the bullet tore through the large femoral artery of Danny’s left leg, also shattering the femur bone just above his kneecap.

His father-in-law (Ray Harris), and Danny and Cindi’s two sons (Danny Jr. and Chad) wasted no time grasping the seriousness of the situation. Bleeding profusely and in a very remote location with limited cell phone reception, Danny was in danger of dying during the roughly two hours it would take to drive him to the nearest medical facility in Lewistown.

Using Ray’s belt as a tourniquet, Danny’s family members drove toward — and were eventually able to call for — ambulance help. “The boys and Grandpa Ray did what they had to do,” Danny says now, expressing both gratitude and admiration.

Finally in a Lewistown hospital, Danny had the large femoral artery in his leg repaired during emergency surgery before being airlifted to a higher-level trauma center in Billings.

After emerging from a five-day medically induced coma in the ICU there, Danny was informed that the bottom half of his damaged leg might need to be amputated because of blood loss and nerve damage. After consultation with Cindi and other family members, Danny decided that that option would give him the best chance at successfully returning to his busy life and work in Watsonville.

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It’s late January, a bit more than two months after the accident, and Danny is back home inside the comfortable Watsonville residence he shares with Cindi and the family dog, Stella. (A family friend had flown Danny back to California, and a surprise welcome-home party at Watsonville Airport around New Year’s.)

Using a metal walker, he is learning to capably navigate the home’s interior and exterior with one good leg and one leg that he hopes will soon be fitted with a prosthetic device. Listening to him recount his near-death experience, it becomes clear that Danny is trying his best to be both philosophical and positive about an accident that now serves as a milestone marker between his past and his future.

He was hospitalized for 41 painful days, during which he received 24 units of blood, 4 units of iron, injections of red blood cells, painkilling medications, dialysis treatments, and too many IVs to count.

But Danny is trying not to focus on the ordeal, instead expressing gratitude for the family members, physicians, and other emergency personnel who came to his aid — and for the people who donated the blood that the doctors there used to save his life.

As it turns out, Danny himself had been a very regular blood donor earlier in his life. “I think I had donated a total of something like 8 gallons,” he says, recalling how he regularly attended American Red Cross blood drives at the Watsonville Women’s Club.

“Honestly, I never thought I would never have my own moment of need,” he says. “I just wanted to help others.”

But Danny’s “moment” arrived — like so many other emergencies — without notice. Miraculously, he survived his, and he’s even beginning to envision a return to an emergency fire job that will enable him to help others — like others helped him in Montana.

But while he continues to gain strength, Danny has taken time away from his recovery to lend his name to a lifesaving project that has special meaning to him now: He is willing to tell his story, hoping it will help promote an upcoming Red Cross blood drive in Watsonville. (The drive is taking place on Friday, February 21, from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Pajaro Valley Health Trust Hall on 85 Nielson Street.)

Danny plans to attend the February 21 drive to thank people personally for finding the time to make a blood donation.

“I was taught a long time ago that life is less about you and more about what you can do to help others,” he says. “People really came to my aid in my time of need, so I want to get back to giving back now that I’m home again.”

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How to schedule a blood donation: To make an appointment to donate in honor of Danny Lucas at the February 21 blood drive, use “sponsor code” WATSONVILL on the Red Cross Blood Donor App, online at RedCrossBlood.org, or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

“We are hopeful that others find Danny’s story to be as inspirational as we have,” says Michele Averill, CEO for the Central Coast Chapter of the American Red Cross. “We are extremely grateful that this very special local resident, even though he is still recovering from his own traumatic accident, is helping us call attention to the important need for lifesaving blood donations.”

 

For a half century, Peg Geringer has had a love affair with her Red Cross work

peg-geringer_420x279Peg Geringer’s impact on the American Red Cross can be described in many ways: the different lines of service she has supported as a volunteer, her tenure as chair of the Silicon Valley Chapter’s First Aid Services Team (FAST), or just by some very impressive numbers.

  • Peg became an active Red Cross volunteer almost 48 years ago.
  • She began donating blood after becoming a Red Crosser, and to date has given 28 gallons.
  • She was a member of the South Bay’s FAST team for 25 years and served as chair for the last 10.

Read more

Caring donors make Santa Cruz blood drive a special success

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Zoë Brouillet is following in her father’s footsteps as a regular Red Cross blood donor.
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You could almost say that helping others is in Zoë Brouillet‘s blood.

That’s why the 19-year-old Santa Cruz resident shifted gears halfway through a “Gap Year” program last year, deciding that her time between finishing high school and beginning college would be better spent in Asia helping the disadvantaged, rather than in Italy studying opera. “I decided part way through the year that I wanted to change locations so the experience could be about something greater than me,” Zoë said. “I ended up helping build water-filtration systems in Cambodia, treat Agent Orange victims in Vietnam, and conserve elephants in Thailand.”

That’s also why Zoë was one of the first people in the Santa Cruz office of the American Red Cross yesterday morning for a blood drive event. Read more

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