Landstuhl blood drive tries to fill emptying coffers
August 15, 2003
LANDSTUHL, Germany — The war may be officially over, however the demand for blood continues.
A blood drive Wednesday at the Army’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, home of Europe’s Armed Services Blood Program, was one of many the group organizes each year.
The need for blood varies from week to week, but according to Capt. Angel Colon, chief of the U.S. Army Europe Blood Donor Center, the supply is always in need of replenishment.
“We’re always in dire need of blood, whether it’s contingency time or peacetime,” Colon said. “Unless we get regular donations, when things come up such as mass casualties, we have to call an emergency blood drive.”
Emergency blood drives usually bring in many donors, however, it’s the regular donations that will keep the supply from falling dangerously short.
One such example occurred a month ago when an injured soldier coming from Iraq required so much blood that his need alone drastically decreased the donor center’s supply.
“We’ve been getting quite a few who have lost their limbs and really need blood,” Colon said.
The soldier received a total of 142 blood components, which includes red blood cells, platelets and plasma.
Along with white blood cells, these three components make up one unit of blood. White blood cells, however, are not typically used for blood replacement. Donors are able to give one unit of blood at a time, which equals to roughly one pint.
“So, from one donation, you could possibly save three lives,” Colon said.
But not everyone can donate their blood. The mad cow disease scare and troops who may have been exposed to malaria are just two of the deferments that have been added in recent years to a list of blood donor criteria.
Also putting a strain on the supply is the fact that blood must be constantly replenished because of its 42-day shelf life.
Once the blood has been collected, lab technicians at Landstuhl perform tests to determine the purity of the blood. An anti-coagulant is also added. Within a week, Ramstein Air Base’s blood shipment unit flies it to Iraq and other parts of the world where it is needed. Within 48 hours of it being prepared, blood will arrive downrange, Colon said.
Robert Kirzner, USAREUR blood donor recruiter, added, “I think it’s important to understand that we support more than just Iraq. We’re supporting blood needs throughout the entire European Theater. That includes things like space shuttle missions [and] ships in the Mediterranean.”
While type O blood is always in demand because it can be given to anyone in an emergency, the donation of all blood types is vital to keep soldiers alive after their blood type has been determined.