Blood pool in Western Pacific region thinned by lack of eligible donors
Stars and Stripes June 4, 2007
CAMP LESTER, Okinawa — They’re out for blood.
But they can’t just take any ole’ blood, which is slowing the flow.
The Armed Services Blood Program is finding it hard to meet the Western Pacific’s demand due to a dwindling pool of eligible donors, program officials said Thursday.
If you recently returned from Iraq or Afghanistan or just got a new tattoo, forget about donating blood. At least for a year anyway, said Tracy Parmer, the program’s blood donor recruiter, and potential donors must wait three weeks after getting the small pox vaccine.
These are just a few of the criteria that is limiting the blood-donor eligibility pool, said Parmer as she discussed a recent blood drive with a unit of about 670 Marines.
“I only needed 30 people to donate,” she explained. “By the time I had run through deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and tattoos and small pox vaccinations, I only had two people who were eligible to donate.”
A few years ago, a Camp Kinser unit set the record by donating 177 pints of blood during a drive. Now it would take six units just to find 30 eligible donors, Parmer said.
Despite fewer eligible donors, the demand for blood remains constant, said Air Force Capt. Katrina Ghazanfar, the program’s deputy director.
“It’s important to have a good supply of donors as we are the only organization in the Western Pacific that draws blood,” Ghazanfar said.
The center usually maintains about 250 blood units on the shelves, but it doesn’t sit long, Ghazanfar said. Blood is sent from Okinawa biweekly to military facilities in mainland Japan, Diego Garcia, Guam, South Korea and the Philippines.
The center also supplies all Marine and Army units deploying from Okinawa as well as the USS Essex, she said.
“Any ships coming from other areas through the Pacific to Southwest Asia, we support them as well,” Ghazanfar said. “Blood we send forward with those headed to OIF and OEF also helps civilians” in those areas, she added.
Parmer said the center collected 4,497 units last year, and has collected 1,836 so far this year.
Despite the decreasing pool of donors, Parmer said, “we have increased our number of (blood) units every year.”
To help meet the demand, the center has upped the number of monthly drives and “been forced to conduct off-island blood drives,” Ghazanfar said.
In April, a mobile team collected blood in Guam and mainland Japan. The mobile team is slated to visit South Korea in June and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and Sasebo Naval Base in July.
“Our battle on a daily basis is finding those few people who are eligible and getting them to donate,” Parmer said.
Any unit or organization interested in hosting a blood drive can call 643-7710. Individuals can donate at the center in Building 6017 on Camp Lester, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
You cannot donate if you ...Returned from Iraq/Afghanistan within the last 12 months.Donated within the last 56 days.Received a tattoo, body piercing or acupuncture within the last 12 months.Received a blood transfusion within last 12 months.Lived in Europe for a cumulative of six months or longer from 1980 to 1996.Lived in the United Kingdom for a cumulative of three months or longer from 1980 to 1996.Recently traveled to a Malaria Endemic Area (as defined by the FDA).Have a history of hepatitis after age 11.Have any history of cancer.Been pregnant in the past six weeks.Ever engaged in “high risk behavior” or had intimate contact with anyone at risk for AIDS.Source: Armed Services Blood Program. For a more comprehensive list, contact the regional Armed Services Blood Program Center program on Okinawa at DSN 643-7737.
Upcoming blood drives on OkinawaJune 5 from 12-4 p.m. in Building 3523 on Kadena Air Base.June 6 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Building 1 on Camp Foster.June 7 from 6:30-11 a.m. in Building 8210 on Camp Shields.June 12 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Building 910 on Kadena Air Base.June 14 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Building 423 on MCAS Futenma.June 19 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Schilling Community Centeron Kadena Air Base.June 21 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center onCamp Foster.June 26 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Schilling Community Centeron Kadena Air Base.June 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Kelly Hall on Camp Hansen.June 28 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Kinser Surfside on Camp Kinser.— Stars and Stripes
Call is out for O-negative donors
CAMP LESTER, Okinawa — The Armed Services Blood Program Center needs blood — especially O-negative.
Anyone can receive O-negative regardless of their blood type, said Air Force Capt. Katrina Ghazanfar, the program’s deputy director.
But only about roughly nine out of 100 people are O-negative.
“That’s the first blood pulled from the shelves for trauma cases, but it’s the hardest blood to stock up on,” Ghazanfar said.
The center has a database of known O-negative donors and sends out invitations to donate, she said.
O-positive also can be used for any positive blood type, she said.
The center draws blood from military and other status of forces people who are 17 or older.
It cannot draw from the local national population.
“You cannot get a disease through giving blood, and we stringently screen potential donors to ensure there will be no adverse reactions to giving blood,” Ghazanfar said.
Eligible donors can give one pint every 56 days, she added.
And with summer coming, every pint counts.
“Blood demand increases over the summer due to accidents as people are outside more,” she said. “So, donate if you can. And if you can’t, recruit someone else to donate.”
— Cindy Fisher