Health

Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center copes amid summer dip in donations

High schools, out for the year, include 20 percent of blood supply

The Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center mobile blood drive in Hiawatha on Friday, June 8, 2018, set up outside the El Kahir Shrine on the afternoon of a regular Friday dinner. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
The Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center mobile blood drive in Hiawatha on Friday, June 8, 2018, set up outside the El Kahir Shrine on the afternoon of a regular Friday dinner. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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Thursday is World Blood Donor Day, and blood donors are vital to the work of the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center. But officials say they face hurdles as those much needed donations decrease as the summer months come into full swing.

Based in Davenport, the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center provides products to 88 hospitals across Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin, including both Cedar Rapids hospitals and Mercy Iowa City.

The center holds about 5,000 mobile blood drives annually across that region, but the events at area high schools typically draw the most donations.

“Anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of our blood supply come from high school blood drives,” said Lisa Sparrow, supervisor of donor relations at the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center.

The supply is especially pinched with school out for summer.

Among Cedar Rapids area high schools, Sparrow said drives at Washington High School bring in the most — about 80 donations per drive. That is followed by Linn-Mar High School in Marion, which brings up to 40 donations per drive.

Sparrow said drives at other locations also are less likely in summer. In addition, she said regular donors often are busy with vacations or other commitments and don’t donate as often.

However, the need for hospitals and patients is no less in summer than it is the rest of the year, said Nancy Kelting, vice president of business development at the blood center.

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Seasonal declines in donations are common, particularly in the weeks around the holidays. That presents a challenge. Blood is good on the shelf for only 42 days, Sparrow said.

“We always know that there are peaks and valleys to donation rate, but you can’t always save the donations from when it’s busier during the year to when it’s slower,” she said. “Blood is needed every day at the hospitals.”

Sparrow added: “if we would have had a busier March, for example, we wouldn’t be able to stockpile donations for the summer months. Those are being used at a regular rate at the hospitals we serve and there’s no way to save for a rainy day.”

The goal is outreach to increase supply, said Kirby Winn, spokesman for the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center. But there also are times when center officials “just really need to work at managing the inventory we do have.”

That entails a close partnership and constant conversation with the 88 hospitals to which the blood center provides blood products, Kelting said. In some cases, inventory must be moved to different hospitals. For example, an older product could be moved from a low-patient-number facility to a more high-volume hospital where it is more likely to be used before the 42 days are up.

“Our hospitals are such great partners that they work with us to make sure that no unit is wasted,” Kelting said.

Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center officials say they work to ensure no one in the region is left without blood if they need it, Kelting said.

“That’s where we rely on that donor base,” Kelting said.

Kelting encourages anyone who may be interested in donating blood in summer months to do so. The Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center is hosting a 100 Days of Summer campaign from June 4 to Sept. 16, during which donors will receive a voucher that can be redeemed for a $5 Amazon or Subway gift card.

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All blood types are needed, but there is a special need for type O-negative and O-positive whole-blood donors, as well as type AB plasma donors and platelet donors.

For more information on blood donations, and to schedule an appointment to donate, visit the center’s website at bloodcenter.org.

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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