Ammunition plant employees donate blood, pay it forward
July 18, 2013
McALESTER, Okla. -- Someone needs a blood transfusion about every two seconds in the United States, according to the American Red Cross.
Crystal Barlow, an industrial specialist (ordnance) in the Production Planning Office of the Ammunition Operations Directorate at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant here knows that all too well.
In January 2004, Cadence, her then 16-month-old daughter's immune system was weakened when her elder sister, Raelyn, contracted Fifth Disease. Cadence needed two transfusions to restore her health.
Barlow has been a regular donor ever since.
"There were no more questions after that," she said. "I'd already given blood before, but if people didn't give, she probably wouldn't be here today."
Barlow was one of 65 MCAAP employees who came to the Armed Forces Reserve Center here July 17 to donate blood. The American Red Cross collected 58 units from employees and Soldiers, including 11 that were donated on double red cell machines. The machine allows the donor to safely give two units of red blood cells at one time while returning the plasma and platelets.
"We still have employees who want to donate but we just don't have the slots," said Pamela Bundy, program assistant, Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program, MCAAP, about two hours into the scheduled four-hour drive.
Like Barlow, numerous other employees said they are frequent donors. Each donor had their own reason, but most cited the importance of helping others.
Leon Broyles, a surveillance information assistant, Surveillance Division, Ammunition Operations Directorate, had a second reason. He was told about 15 years ago by his physician that donating blood was one of the most important things he could do in his life.
"I had high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and according to [the doctor] my blood regenerates and gets more pure each time I donate. So it's as much a benefit to me as whoever receives the blood."
Since 2006 when Southwest Region Blood Services from Tulsa began making annual visits, it has collected 655 units of blood from MCAAP employees, potentially helping up to 1,965 patients, according to April Inman, donor recruitment representative for the American Red Cross.
The blood collected from MCAAP donors was sent to the ARC center where it is processed and distributed to hospitals that need it. Inman said that while the ARC can't tell everyone where their blood has been delivered, random donors do receive a note informing them which hospital received their donation.
Inman said only about 38 percent of the nation's population is eligible to donate blood and that only a small percentage do.
Summer months are particularly challenging, she said, because people are busy traveling and taking vacations. Inman said donations are down 10 percent nationwide resulting in about 50,000 fewer donations since June.
"Blood donation needs are constant," she said. "The MCAAP blood drive is a very important blood drive, supplying hundreds of units to our patients."
Another blood drive will be held in McAlester at the Church of Christ Aug. 15.
McAlester Army Ammunition Plant is the Department of Defense's premier bomb and warhead loading facility, and is one of 14 industrial facilities in the Joint Munitions Command. It is vital to ammunition stockpile management and delivery to the joint warfighter for training and combat operations.