One way Iowans can help: Blood donations needed for Houston's medical response after Harvey

Hospitals use blood for existing patients, procedures

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Iowans who want to help Tropical Storm Harvey victims can do more than donate clothes or money — they can donate blood.

“Hospitals are still open, and the patients there need blood,” said Kirby Winn, spokesman for the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center.

Houston hospitals require blood for cancer treatments, child births and other medical procedures. Not only is the city the fourth largest in America, it has a huge health care industry with sprawling medical complexes, including MD Anderson Cancer Center.

On Monday, the Davenport-based blood center — which provides blood to 86 hospitals in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri, including UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital and Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids — sent about 40 units of red blood cells to Texas, Winn said.

Local needs have to be met first, he added, and summer always is a slow time for blood centers. Donations dip anywhere from 10 to 20 percent while the demand for blood stays the same.

That’s primarily because high school and college students are home for the summer — so student-run blood drives aren’t held — and blood drives at businesses aren’t as well attended as many people are out of the office on vacation.

“We’re moderating the blood supply closely in first place,” Winn added. “But it’s much worse in the region affected by the hurricane. As of Sunday, that area saw a loss of 1,000 donations.”

The the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center works with a national group — AABB — to coordinate blood needs.

“There’s a few dozen providers around country who are all chipping in fairly modest amounts,” Winn said. “We can’t all of the sudden take on all of the needs, but we’re having good response.”

Those who showed up to appointments and walk-in donations were strong on Monday and Tuesday, Winn said, adding he expects those numbers to remain strong throughout the week.

“I expect we’ll be able to ship again to Texas later this week,” he said.

Appointments at Cedar Rapids donation centers are still open. And Winn said it’s important to donate to during times of need because, at some point, Iowa likely will be in need of blood, such as during the 2008 flood — Mercy Medical Center was evacuated, bridges were closed and people couldn’t reach the donation centers.

“Our turn can come at any time,” he said.

To Donate: From the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center:

If you’ve never donated before and would like to help, give us a call at 800-747-5401 and we can find a donor center or mobile blood drive near you. If you’re already a donor, you can call or go to www.bloodcenterimpact.org to make an appointment. Walk-ins are always welcome!

l Comments: (319) 398-8331; chelsea.keenan@thegazette.com

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