The calls for life-saving blood donations went out immediately after last week’s mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio. While many donors and organizations answered those calls, representatives from the Texoma Regional Blood Center said an ongoing and critical blood shortage prevented them from doing so and has further raised concerns about the ability to save lives locally in the wake of a mass-casualty event.
“If what happened in El Paso happened right now, here in Grayson County, we would be in a lot of trouble,” Texoma Regional Blood Center Donor Recruiter Brandy Barnard said Wednesday. “Right now, we don’t even have enough blood to fill our shelves or directly help with local surgeries and supply the local hospitals here in Grayson County, Fannin County or Cook County.”
Barnard said the blood center’s supply hits its lowest point in the summer because the majority of its donations come from high school students and blood drives, which are not accessible during their months of vacation. Donors distracted by travel plans and a seasonal increase in elective surgeries also contribute to the scarcity of blood, but Barnard said ultimately, there are still more than enough eligible donors out there.
“At all five area hospitals, they like to have 411 units available,” Barnard said. “That’s not some huge number that can’t be reached. There’s close to 70,000 people in just Sherman and Denison and only ten percent of them can’t donate. We shouldn’t have this problem.”
When the center becomes critically low on blood, Barnard said staff are often forced to spend days on the phone calling larger donation centers to see what types of blood they have available for sale and whether their purchase prices — usually $200-$250 per unit — are feasible for the center. But even if the center finds the blood it’s looking for, the process of resupplying can be difficult and slow moving.
“We had to purchase 40 units of blood last Friday, before the El Paso shooting even happened, and it took us all day just get those units here,” Barnard said.
Donations remain critical in the hours and days after a major emergency, but Bernard said blood centers and hospitals need access to blood in advance to help victims in the immediate aftermath.
“Even if people came in to donate today, it still takes three-to-four days for all the testing and processing to be completed and to be able to use that blood to save someone’s life in the hospital,” Barnard said.
To help drum up extra donations, Barnard said the Texoma Regional Blood Center is hosting its in-house Battle of the Bands blood drive all month long in conjunction with the Battle of the Ax football game. Participating donors can cast a vote for their favorite school and will receive a free t-shirt for their generosity. The center is also scheduled to hold more than a dozen mobile blood drives throughout Grayson County in August.
Barnard said while the recent mass shootings may unnerve members of the public, she hopes they will also be seen as a call for donors to step up and make a difference before the next tragedy occurs.
“It’s sad that we have to be afraid of situations like this, but we have to prepare for them,” Barnard said. “To do that, we have to have blood on the shelves. Only then can we save our family members, our friends and our neighbors. It’s so important.”
For a complete list of donation events and donor qualifications, visit http://www. texomablood.org or call 903-893-4314. The Texoma Regional Blood Center is located at 3911 Texoma Parkway in Sherman.
Drew Smith is a reporter for the Herald Democrat. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.