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We Are Blood Calls For Donations To Keep Up With Local Demand

We Are Blood hosts a blood drive for victims of the El Paso mass shooting outside of the Texas Capitol in 2019.
Gabriel C. Pérez
We Are Blood hosts a blood drive for victims of the El Paso mass shooting outside of the Texas Capitol in 2019.

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As the city of Austin gets closer to becoming a regional medical hub and demand for blood donations rises, We Are Blood is looking for new donors. And with the summer months approaching — which are normally the slowest for the blood bank — it's calling on people to sign up.

In the last few years, a handful of hospitals have popped up in Austin and surrounding areas such as Pflugerville and Buda, and plans are in the works to build more. Since We Are Blood is responsible for supplying more than 40 medical facilities in a 10-county region, it needs to collect more blood.

“What we're seeing year after year is just the volumental growth in blood donation need, just due to the normal needs of patients in hospitals, because of all the new hospitals and programs that our community has to offer now,” said Nick Canedo, We Are Blood's vice president of community engagement.

We Are Blood needs to collect around 200 whole blood donations and about 30 platelet donations every day in order to maintain a safe and healthy supply.

Canedo said hospitals need blood daily to treat trauma and surgical patients. Cancer patients, mothers of newborns experiencing complications during birth, car crash victims and burn victims also need blood transfusions.

“There are daily emergencies that our community experiences,” he said. “A lot of people think of blood donations in response to a hurricane, natural disaster or unfortunately a mass casualty shooting, but every day those blood donations are needed for just things that are happening daily at our hospitals.”

Canedo said blood donations are processed in a lab into separate products including red cells, plasma and platelets. Those samples are sent for testing before being distributed to area hospitals.

Eligible donors are people who are in good health, are 17 years or older, weigh at least 115 pounds (for whole blood donations) or 110 pounds (for platelet donations). People can give whole blood, the most common type of donation, every two months. Platelet donors can give every seven days. Masks and appointments are required because of COVID-19.

The blood bank operates three donor centers in Central Texas. Mobile blood drives — which usually make up about half of what the blood bank needs to collect weekly — stopped running as often during the coronavirus pandemic. Canedo said the blood bank had to rely on regular donors to make up for that loss because it wasn't able to introduce blood donations to new donors.

We Are Blood officials say as COVID-19 restrictions ease, there will be more opportunities to host additional mobile clinics.

Dani Matias is a former producer and fill-in host for KUT's Morning Edition show.
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