With the summer months, comes a greater need for blood donors.
Blood Bank of Hawaii — the state’s only provider of blood products for the civilian population that serves the state’s 18 hospitals — is hosting a number of blood drives this month to help meet needs.
Todd Lewis, the blood bank’s chief operating officer, said the need for whole blood and blood components is “pretty flat” year-round, but with vacations and other summertime distractions, the organization collects about 15% less blood between Memorial Day and Labor Day than during the academic year.
And the week of July 4 is “traditionally one of the hardest times throughout the whole summer,” he said.
Lewis said the blood bank is in need of O- and O+ red blood cells, and A+ and B+ plasma donors.
When donated blood is collected, Lewis said it is sent back to the blood bank’s Oahu headquarters where it’s processed into different components and tested. Once those results are in, the blood is labeled and stored until ordered by hospitals.
Lewis said the organization tries to keep a “couple weeks of plasma inventory” in the entire system — in hospitals and at headquarters — and seven days of red blood cell supplies in the entire system, about half of which is stored in hospitals.
According to Lewis, O+, O-, A- an B- red cells can be difficult for the blood bank’s system to maintain at its seven-day target.
“O- is by far the most difficult,” he said, adding that the blood type is the lowest percentage of the donor population and has the highest demand from hospitals because it’s the universal blood type, meaning anyone can receive it.
In East Hawaii, Stephen Smith, pathologist and medical director of the Hilo Medical Center laboratory, said the hospital has a projected ideal minimum of inventory it tries to maintain, “and if (the blood bank) can keep us supplied with that minimum inventory, we’re in pretty good shape.”
But if the blood bank runs low, “we may have to go below that ideal inventory,” he said.
Smith said red blood cells, platelets and plasma are used for different reasons at different times.
HMC has one of the busiest emergency rooms in the state, he said, “and we see a lot of trauma.”
“Obviously, when people are having a massive blood hemorrhage, you have to stop the bleeding,” Smith explained. While doctors are doing that, blood is needed for transfusion, “and it can be a life or death situation.”
While amount of blood used varies each day, Smith said that at HMC “we transfuse something every day.”
According to a news release, Blood Bank of Hawaii depends on 200 volunteer donors a day to provide blood to Hawaii’s hospitals, and a single car accident can require up to 50 units of blood.
Blood donations also are used daily for surgeries, trauma victims, delivering mothers, cancer treatments, transplants and other life-saving procedures.
It’s a continuous process to keep HMC blood stocks up, Smith said.
“It’s more than what we just have on the shelf,” he said. “It’s a dynamic interaction that keeps us supplied with what we need.”
Lewis said the Big Island takes about 9% of red cells distributed annually, but also produces about 9% of the red blood cells collected throughout the state.
“It’s a perfect match,” he said. “The Big Island has a very generous community population (and) businesses that partner with us. They do a good job replacing what they use.”
Upcoming Big Island blood drives, which are subject to change, include:
• 7:15 a.m.-1:45 p.m. today, LDS Kona Stake Center cultural hall.
• 7:30 a.m.- 5 p.m. July 16-18, Aunty Sally Kaleohano’s Luau Hale main room.
• 8:15 a.m.- 2:30 p.m. July 19, Legacy Hilo Rehabilitation and Nursing Center.
To be a blood donor, an individual must be in good health, 18 or older (or 16-17 years old a with signed Blood Bank of Hawaii parent/legal guardian consent), weigh 110 pounds or more (additional height/weight requirements apply for female donors 16-18 years old) and bring a photo ID with date of birth.
Anyone who donates blood during the summer will receive a temporary ‘Tough Enough’ tattoo.
In July, McDonald’s of Hawaii also is offering a complimentary sandwich card to anyone who donates blood on Hawaii Island.
To make an appointment or for more information, call Blood Bank of Hawaii at 848-4770 or visit bloodbanktough.org.
Email Stephanie Salmons at firstname.lastname@example.org.