FORT HOOD, Texas - Donating blood through the Armed Forces Blood Donor Program is a true Soldier to Soldier program, with Soldiers donating blood or plasma and other Soldiers receiving the life-saving blood or plasma donation.
Every single week, the Robertson Blood Center should be receiving more than 500 blood donations, but the harsh reality is they only receive between five to 15 donations weekly. Instead of helping to save 1,500 lives of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, the current rate of donations are only helping between 15-45 service members weekly.
“We are in an emergency for blood products,” Cheryl Parmer, the public affairs blood donor recruiter for the Armed Forces Blood Donor Program, explained. “Our mission is to save the lives of our military members and we can’t do it without military members, families and civilians coming in.”
The Armed Forces Blood Donor Program provides life-saving blood and plasma donations to service members worldwide – from the operating rooms at Carl R. Darnall Medical Center to the deserts of Afghanistan. Right now, however, the blood center is not receiving enough donations to meet their quotas either locally or downrange.
A single pint – 16 ounces or two cups – is all it takes to make a difference. To put it into perspective, Parmer said a single, one-pint donation is approximately the size of a milk carton from a school lunch.
“One pint seems like a lot because it’s your blood, but it’s just enough to save up to three lives,” Parmer said.
The Robertson Blood Center accepts donations from anyone with base access. Active duty, reservists, retirees, family members, federal employees and even contractors can donate and it only takes about an hour.
Donors have the option of walking in or making an appointment. After checking-in to the front desk, the donor is asked to have a seat in the socially distanced waiting area until called back for an “interview.”
Capt. Lowell Listerud, acting director of the Robertson Blood Center, said they will be taken to a private room for the “interview,” which includes questions about the donor’s medical history. This process is used to determine if a donor is eligible to donate. Once the interview is over, they are moved to the collection room to have their blood or plasma drawn. Afterward, he said the donor is asked to wait in the relaxation room to enjoy some refreshments. The donator will be given a T-shirt for their donation.
With concerns about COVID-19, Parmer and Listerud said donors should feel assured that safety is a priority at the Robertson Blood Center. Listerud said if a donor comes with symptoms of an illness, they will not be allowed to donate.
Donors who have received the COVID-19 vaccine are eligible to donate two weeks after receiving the vaccine. Listerud said donors who have tested COVID-positive in the past are highly encouraged to donate because their blood and plasma have antibodies to the virus.
Parmer said donors who were told in the past that they cannot donate due to being stationed in Europe or the United Kingdom from 1980-1996. She said some changes have been made regarding those who can and cannot donate. She encouraged people to call the blood center to find out if they are on the deferral list. Because of the changes, donors can now call about their status. If they are listed on a deferral list, they can request a work ticket to have the deferral removed so they can donate. Parmer said that by calling ahead, donors do not waste their time.
Parmer also encouraged units to establish a point-of-contact within their unit for blood donations. POCs can determine how many Soldiers want to donate and coordinate with the Robertson Blood Center to either bring out their bloodmobile or set up a time for all the Soldiers to come directly in to the center. She said scheduling ahead of time allows them to be COVID-safe.
The goal of the Armed Forces Blood Donor Program is to save lives – one drop at a time. Parmer encouraged people to donate because the next Soldier who needs blood could be them.
“Nobody wakes up in the morning thinking that this is going to be the worst day of their life, rather it’s here or while defending our country, and need blood. When our military family needs us it’s the worst moment of their life and we have to be prepared” she explained. “We are the people who help you with your life when it’s the worst moment of your life.”
The Robertson Blood Center is open from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., weekdays. Those interested in donating can call (254) 285-5808 to make an appointment or go directly to the blood center, 2250 West 761st Tank Battalion Avenue.