FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – While many regular drives have been canceled at schools and work-places across the country because of COVID-19, Fort Campbell has hosted 28 blood drives with more scheduled as the holidays near.
So far, 563 units of blood have been collected during drives on post. Each unit can help save up to three lives, said Tiffany Taylor, external communications manager for the Tennessee Valley and River Valley Regions of the Red Cross.
Lieutenant Colonel David Mendoza, chief of pathology at Blanchfield Army Community Hospi-tal, said 2020 has been a challenging year and hosting additional blood drives on post was a way to help not only the Army, but patients with a wide range of needs from all over the region.
“I work here at the hospital and have an interest in maintaining good blood supply, so I encour-aged that we have more blood drives on post,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza is one of four Fort Campbell employees who were recognized during a ceremony Nov. 17 at BACH for their leadership and dedication to hosting successful blood drives and providing exceptional service to the community. The other awardees are Leon Burgess, transfusion ser-vices/immunology supervisor; Laura Boyd, pubic affairs officer for BACH and Richard Vater, emergency management specialist.
Dudley Wagner, donor resources and development district manager, for the American Red Cross, Tennessee Valley Region, presented the plaques during the ceremony.
Wagner said Mendoza was instrumental to the success of blood drives on post.
“He was one of the first gentleman to call and say ‘please bring the bus, we are onboard and en-gaged.’ You all were one of the first responders to come help us meet the community’s needs,” he said. “It was within the next day that we rolled up to BACH and started our first community blood drive. Now, more than 500 units later we are able to do that at least once or twice a month. I can’t thank you all enough for helping us meet the needs of civilians as well as community members on post.”
Working with the Red Cross was advantageous for both parties, Burgess said.
“We are the blood bank in the hospital, so we transfuse blood, plasma and platelets to our pa-tients here in the hospital,” he said. “When a patient is bleeding, we rely on the Red Cross. We place orders with them and they get us blood very quickly. It’s a unique relationship in that we help each other out.”
Burgess went the extra mile to help the Red Cross because he knows how challenging it can be to host a blood drive.
“Doing a blood drive is not easy,” he said. “It wasn’t easy before COVID-19, so it’s even more difficult now. There is a whole array of testing that has to be done on that [donated] blood. It’s a huge process from the time it is collected from the donor to the time it is put into a patient.”
Burgess is thankful for each of the donors, he said.
“It makes me feel really good that the Soldiers and their Families and the retiree population are so supportive,” he said. “When they donate, they are supporting our post and our Families.”
Vater focused his efforts on coordinating blood drives through installation and division units to boost participation. He said donation busses were used more frequently in line with COVID-19 safety precautions.
He was invested in scheduling the on-post blood drives because he knew the Red Cross was in serious need.
“We use the Red Cross as our blood supply, so it’s good to help replenish what we take,” Vater said. “It’s phenomenal what Fort Campbell has accomplished. It’s a team effort across the entire installation and division to make sure we are supporting the Red Cross.”
‘Always a need’
Garry Allison, regional donor services executive for the American Red Cross Tennessee Valley Blood Services Region, said the Red Cross is grateful for the support from BACH and area blood donors.
“We’re proud to partner with each of them in leading the Fort Campbell community in an effort to help save lives,” Allison said.
Celeste Morris, donor resource development coordinator, Red Cross, said nearly half of the blood drives on post exceeded the Red Cross’ collection goal. About 250 people made donations to the Red Cross for the first time during the on-post blood drives. Of the donor pool, 79 have made multiple donations this year.
“In fact, 58 donors have a record as having given at least a gallon of their blood to the Red Cross,” Morris said.
Blood drives are an opportunity for healthy community members to help seriously ill and critical-ly injured patients, Taylor said.
“The Fort Campbell blood drives are vital in helping to ensure a stable blood supply during a time when there continues to be an ongoing urgent need for both blood donors and blood drive hosts during the pandemic,” she said.
The need for blood around the holidays often increases as people who have met insurance de-ductibles get elective surgeries, Mendoza said.
“There’s always a need,” he said. “Now, in addition to COVID-19, there were other things that caused cancelations of blood drives. We had wildfires in the West, we had major storms in the Southeast, and so everything kind of pooled together to make things way more difficult.”
The need this year could be even greater than usual.
“Because of the upcoming holidays and the cold and flu season, this time of year is traditionally hard on the region’s blood supply,” Allison said. “Add in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the blood needs have the potential to be far greater than in previous years.”
Becoming a blood donor
To make an appointment or for more information, download the American Red Cross Blood Do-nor App, visit redcrossblood.org, call 800-733-2767, or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card, driver license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Donors must be at least 17 years old, weigh 110 pounds and be in general good health.