OKEECHOBEE — “The need for blood is higher than ever,” Raye Deusinger told the Okeechobee County commissioners at their Oct. 8 meeting. She said the current blood shortage is due primarily to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The annual Okeechobee Blood Roundup, which is planned for Nov. 21 and 22 this year, has collected thousands of units of blood over the years, saving thousands of lives in the process.
In past years, the roundup organizers asked local businesses to provide items of gift bags and prizes for the event. This year, with businesses hard-hit by the financial impacts of the pandemic, Deusinger said they did not feel it would be right to ask businesses to donate prizes. However, donors will receive a free health screening including a test for COVID antibodies.
“You will win a prize, though,” she said. “You’re going to win the prize of saving somebody’s life.”
Another difference in this year’s event is that everyone must have an appointment. In previous years, walk-ins were encouraged, but due to the health and safety protocols in place because of the pandemic, appointments are required to limit the number of people on site at any one time, and to provide time for the necessary sanitation procedures in between donors.
Deusinger said they will follow strict health procedures to make sure everyone is safe.
“Spread the word to employees, friends and family. The need is urgent,” she said. After blood is donated, it takes about 24 hours to test the blood and process it into blood components for transfusion. Red blood cells can be safely stored for up to 42 days, but the need is so urgent that blood is currently used between 48 and 72 hours after donation, she said.
She said they need blood donors from all ethnic groups. While blood can be transfused to anyone who has the same blood group, it is more beneficial to the patient if they receive blood from someone in their ethnic group because other blood factors are involved, she explained.
According to OneBlood’s website, the science of blood transfusion is complex and multifaceted. Determining the correct blood product to transfuse into a patient is of utmost importance to his or her care and recovery. This decision comes down to more than just matching the ABO group of the donor and recipient. The surface of our red blood cells contains antigens (like a protein) that determine a person’s specific blood type. Doctors and scientists have discovered more than 600 of these antigens. Their presence or absence creates our individual blood types. Currently, there are 33 recognized blood group systems. Each group has its own unique combination of antigens. Blood type is an inherited trait, and many of the factors that determine the unique makeup of your blood type are related to your ethnicity.
For more information, go online to www.oneblood.org/donate-now.