By JEAN CLAVETTE GRAVES
Public Affairs Specialist
FORT POLK, La. – Throughout history, Americans have rallied during times of crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired the nation to help their communities in various ways. Churches are preparing and delivering meals to the elderly and infirm. Talented and crafty individuals are sewing masks for hospital staffs and private citizens. Soldiers and Family members are donating blood.
During World War II, the Shreveport Memorial Blood Bank was established. At the time, blood banking was in its infancy; the idea of idea of citizens donating blood on a regular basis was still a new concept for the nation. The legacy of the blood banks’ founder is one of commitment, compassion and never-ending vision. LifeShare Blood Centers provides blood components to medical facilities throughout Louisiana, East Texas and South Arkansas.
As COVID-19 reached the Fort Polk community, Soldiers and Families asked what they could do to help, while still maintaining social distancing. The answer was clear: They could donate blood. Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital, in partnership with LifeShare Blood Center, has held three blood drives in response to COVID-19.
Jessica Sears, regional director, LifeShare said, “Someone will need blood every two seconds, and just one donation can save up to three lives. With all the wonderful advances in modern medicine, there is no manufactured substitute for human blood. It must be provided by volunteer blood donors in the community. One in three people need blood in their lifetime. If you don't need blood, it's almost certain that someone close to you will.”
BJACH doubled their average blood-drive collection during these drives, ensuring hospitals would have blood available for patients. “The community response was tremendous,” Sears said.
The Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk and BJACH are partners in the community, and the most desperately needed resource is blood. Soldiers and Family members have asked how they could assist or volunteer during the nation's COVID-19 response. Donating blood provides a safe venue for their call to action.
Col. Jody Dugai, BJACH commander said, “As a medical community, we know the value of having blood available for patients, young and old, when and where it is needed. Blood is utilized to treat trauma patients, cancer patients, newborns and many other diseases. The blood is kept in the community for use by our medical partners and BJACH.”
Fort Polk has provided more than 140 units of blood products during the last three blood drives. All the available appointments to donate were booked.
“I think that says it was wildly successful. We stepped up to the challenge and crushed it,” said Dugai.
The most recent blood drive was held on May 1.
Sgt. 1st Class Felix Matoscruz, an observer/ coach/trainer with Task Force Fire Support, said it was, “perfect timing for me, and I haven’t donated in a while; I wanted to help out.”
His sentiments were echoed by Sgt. 1st Class Fernando Alvarez, Echo Forward Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, who said, “Everyone should donate blood once in a while.”
Family members and Department of the Army civilians joined Soldiers at the May 1 blood drive to show their support.
Baker Graves, a Leesville High School sophomore said, “I kind of feel bad that I’m not doing anything right now. When my mom told me about the blood drive, I said, ‘let’s do it.’”
This was his second time donating blood with LifeShare. “We got a pretty cool ‘COVID-19 crisis warrior’ T-shirt,” said Graves.
There were 49 appointments and 50 units of blood collected at the last blood drive hosted by BJACH. Due to community response, LifeShare is working with the hospital to schedule another blood drive.
Local blood drives and appointments can be made on their website at www.donor.lifeshare.org.