Started in 1975 with the help of local doctors Emmett Essin, John Steele and others, the Texoma Regional Blood Center has been working to serve the local hospitals in this area for more than 40 years. The blood center can only boast that it receives around 10,000 blood donations each year, with a small handful of donors making regular appearances at the blood center.
With the expansion of hospitals and a growing need for blood and blood donations, staff at the center are working on keeping the local establishment a community blood center.
“100 percent of blood banks are not for profit,” TRBC Executive Director Stacy Braddock says.
And the work of the center is costly.
“We, as a small blood center, are required to meet all the standards as a center four or five times our size,” Braddock explains about why it is hard for small blood banks to survive. “Because we are small, it is easier and quicker for us to make changes. There are less people for us to have to go through. There are pros and cons to being a small blood center. A strong con for us is the struggle with increasing fees and testing and other things. We want to make sure we can get reimbursed for all of the testing that we are having to do to ensure the blood supply is safe.”
The Texoma Regional Blood Center supplies blood to Texoma Medical Center, Wilson N. Jones and other places.
Due to school and college blood drives, there was a collecting boom in October and into November. But even with the increase in donating, the center is still in critical need.
“Though we are in a boom, we are still critically low in a lot of areas because as soon as we get it, it is going right out of the door,” Braddock explains.
With TMC expanding, there is an increased need for blood. Braddock says that Wilson N. Jones is also using more products than they have in the past.
“So as we are collecting more, the need is also growing,” she continues.
The interval for whole blood donation is 56 days. A double red cell donation is 56 times two, which is 112 days. Platelets and plasma only donors must wait 28 days in between donations.
“Other centers have different intervals than we do, but you can exhaust your platelet donors quicker than a year’s time, so we have elected those intervals to keep the donors able to donate once a month on the platelet donations,” Braddock talks about how the center set its donation intervals.
One of the most common misconceptions is that individuals who have diabetes or who take blood pressure medications are not able to donate. However, these individuals may still be able to donate. Braddock says that if people have questions, they should contact the center at 903-893-4314.
“You can mix and match donations as long as you have exceeded the interval time between your last donation,” Braddock says. “A donor can do a whole blood donation, then wait 56 days and do a platelet donation. They they would have to wait 28 days, and then they can donate whatever the next time they come through.”
From a whole blood donation, about three people can be helped. That is because the donation can be split into a red blood cell donation, a platelet donation and a plasma donation.
One reason that it is always good to have platelet or apheresis donors is because of the need for Rh negative blood types.
“There are less people walking around with that blood type,” Braddock talks about the blood types that are generally most needed. “So we are constantly struggling to collect those so when we are in need, we ask people that are of those blood types to go ahead and do a double red donation on the same machine that we do the platelets on. The same machine can do all of those procedures. We try to get the products that we need when we actually need it.”
In the office, staff members try to tailor what collections to what is needed to provide to the hospitals. So whether it is platelets, O-negative blood or a combination of types of donations, the staff members try to encourage people to give what is most readily needed. However, they will never turn down a donation.
“We have a handful that are regular and come in every 56 or 112 days to donate,” Braddock says. “We generally have people that come in twice a year. If we got everyone to donate just one more time than they normally do, we would be doing great. That means the person that donates once a year donates twice and the person that donates twice a year donates three times, we would be doing great.”
With just one more donation per person a year, there would be a huge impact on what the area can supply to locals.
“A lot of times, the hospitals are requesting more around the times that we have fewer donors,” Braddock explains why more blood is needed during the winter and summer months. “The demand is higher during the holiday and winter months.”
There are a lot of factors to account for in the lack of donors during these times, as well as for the increased needs from hospitals.
“It could be increased accidents due to the weather and more traveling,” Braddock rationalizes why there may be shortages. “It could be more elective surgeries because people are trying to get them in before their insurance rolls over. That could be a good part of it. And, during the summer, people are out more and traveling and doing more. I cannot contribute it to one thing specifically, but those are increased times.”
In the midst of the giving season, Braddock suggests that families can make blood donation an annual family tradition, and it does not have to be limited to this season.
“This is something that you can freely give, and it can make a huge impact on the patients in our hospitals,” she says. “These patients could be your brother, your mom, your dad, your cousin. You do not realize on a given day how many people are relying on the hospitals because you never know who is there.”
It is the blood that is already on the shelves that saves the lives and that really matters when there is an urgent need.
“It is the blood that is already in the blood center that helps the most,” Braddock talks about how long it takes for a blood donation to get the proper testing. “So time wise, from the time that a donor actually donates, we do not get the testing back until 24-48 hours. Then after processing and everything, it does not go out the door until three or four days later.”
In most cases, the blood that was donated last week is the blood that will help hospital patients today.
“So making it a commitment to donate frequently is what actually helps us,” Braddock says. “When there is an urgent need, we do need donors to come in and help us so that we can break that cycle.”
Recruiting new donors has changed a lot in the last 40 years. With the help of donation parties and social media, the center has found new ways of reaching the community.
Community enthusiast Melida Ailshire has been hosting a birthday blood drive in February at the center for the last five years.
“We have a few people that come in and do blood drives for their birthdays,” Braddock said. “Instead of getting gifts from friends and family, they will ask them to donate to the blood center in their name for her present. It is about giving the gift of life. A lot of times people want to help support the Salvation Army, the Red Cross and the nursing homes during this time of year. Coming in as a family and making a blood donation is something else that you can do along with everything else you are doing, and it does not cost a cent.”
The average whole blood donation takes 30-45 minutes from the time the donor enters the facility.
To schedule a blood drive, contact Donor Recruiter Brandy Barnard at 903-893-4314. For more information about the blood center, visit http://www.TexomaBlood.org or http://www.Facebook.com/TexomaRegionalBloodCenter.