By David Vergun
FORT MEADE, Md. – The goal of the Army’s new blood drive campaign is to match a donor’s blood type with a specific need, rather than simply issuing a general call for donations.
It’s an education campaign as much as it is a blood drive, according to Julie Oliveri, director, Communications and Marketing, Armed Services Blood Program Office.
“Many of our donors are accustomed to signing up for blood drives and coming in to donate, irrespective of their blood type. We don’t want our very dedicated donors to be alienated by the idea that we might need a specific type at a specific blood drive, and that type may not be theirs,” she said.
“This is also why we take the time to explain that certain blood types are well suited for certain blood products. For example if you are O, you will want to donate whole blood, A for plasma or plateletpheresis, and AB for plasma. We suggest that our donors check with their local donor center to find out exactly what their needs are,” said Oliveri.
“Our goal,” she said, “is to encourage donors to register online so local donor centers can contact them to let them know when their type is needed and where and when the next blood drive will be.” To register, click here.
Giving blood is a way of supporting wounded warriors, as well as Soldiers and their families everywhere, who could someday require a blood transfusion, said Col. Ronny Fryar, Army Blood Program director, who went on to explain the process. ABP is a component of the Armed Services Blood Program.
“We monitor the blood supply worldwide,” he said. “For example, we ensure there’s enough in Afghanistan to treat our wounded warriors. Having enough on hand could entail requesting a shipment from Germany or elsewhere to replenish the supply. As a matter of fact, blood is routinely shipped throughout DOD.”
Why the need for careful and constant monitoring and shipping?
“Blood has a relatively short shelf life,” Fryar said. “When blood is drawn, it is processed into three components: platelets, red blood cells and plasma. The approximate shelf life on platelets is a mere five days; 42 for red blood cells and about a year for plasma, if frozen. This makes stockpiling a challenge.”
Fryar said the Army routinely shares blood with the other services and even their civilian counterparts.
“For example, if we have a large supply of plasma that will soon expire and it is not needed right away within DOD, we’ll contact civilian hospitals that are in short supply. They in turn will help us out the same way.”
Maintaining an adequate supply of blood on hand depends on the goodwill of volunteers, and this is where ASBP’s advertising efforts help get the word out, Fryar said. Also, every unit has a blood coordinator, who can be found by asking the first sergeant. For Army families, the family readiness groups also assists with getting donors to turn out for blood drives.
Which types of blood are needed?
“All types,” Fryar emphasized. “Especially rare types like AB, which we solicit through targeted advertising. But even the common types like O are always in demand.” He said the process is safe, easy and relatively pain free. “Although (ASPB) donors are not paid for their blood, units sometime give Soldiers time off. Also, there’s a canteen on hand with delicious snacks so donors can replenish their fluid and sugars.
“The most important incentive for donating, however, is knowing that you are going to be helping someone, giving them the gift of life.”