There are many ways to show support for our South Sound community. One is to make a gift of life to people in need of the most precious commodity at the most critical time of illness or injury – a blood donation. Blood is needed for life-saving transfusions and for critical research.
Bloodworks Northwest, the nonprofit that began as King County Blood Bank in 1944 and later was known as Puget Sound Blood Center, is a good place to start. The name change follows its expanded reach in the Pacific Northwest region; Bloodworks now serves nearly 90 hospitals in Washington, Oregon and Alaska.
Dr. James P. AuBuchon, chief executive officer, says most blood collections by his nonprofit agency are used in the communities where they obtain them.
Bloodworks has been in Thurston County, collecting blood for use by local facilities such as Providence St. Peter Hospital, for about 20 years, says Doug Mah of Olympia, who belongs to a South Sound advisory council for the blood bank. AuBuchon, Mah and local advisory council chairman Rich Green of Olympia met with our Editorial Board last month.
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AuBuchon said the nonprofit operates a research institute that is interested in advances in the storage of blood platelets and blood cells, in bleeding disorders, blood clotting related to heart attacks, and malaria.
It also has built a large network of special donors whom its staff can call when high demand is expected for special blood types.
Bloodworks launched a fund drive this fall at an event at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey to pay for a new three-bed bloodmobile that can replace the high-mileage vehicle it has used for years to serve Thurston, Mason, Lewis and Grays Harbor counties. The current truck has over 200,000 miles and puts on 15,000 to 18,000 miles a year.
The fund-raising goal is $250,000, and the organizers had just over $35,000 raised at last count. They expect fund raising to continue into 2016.
Despite the growth of Bloodworks, AuBuchon says about 30 percent less blood is both collected and used today in the U.S. compared with past decades. Some of that reduction is related to advances in storage techniques and more judicious use of blood products by doctors.
There are other trends that present challenges. The age of donors is rising. Many youths donate blood, but their numbers drop off as they move into their 20s and 30s. Some begin re-enlisting to give blood in their 40s, Mah says.
January is also a tough time for collections as donors let up a bit over the Christmas holiday.
Mah said he’s found “it only takes one hour to donate and help save a life. I am amazed that all it takes is time — what an incredibly easy, yet meaningful, way to help someone or a family.” For those who might struggle with the idea of giving blood, or for whom it’s not medically appropriate, a gift to help buy the new bloodmobile or to assist Bloodworks with its research is something to keep in mind this holiday season.
None of us really knows when our turn will come to draw on the bank.