by HARRIET KING
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, UMW Red Cross Club has hosted monthly drives to collect blood for local hospitals affected by the national blood crisis.
Senior computer science major Meghan Cooke, who donated at a March 30 blood drive on the UMW campus, described the donation process as being fairly hassle-free. Cooke donates every six weeks.
“There was a while where like, the needles were like a little more blunt than usual and that was kind of painful; I just remember the whole time it was kind of uncomfortable, but it was okay, they’re all awesome there,” said Cooke.
This year, the Red Cross Club has hosted monthly blood drives, but in recent years they have hosted other events, such as CPR certification training and packaging care boxes for homeless veterans.
Club president and senior biochemistry major Nyah Hizer will be graduating this spring, relinquishing not only her role as president but also the multiple other positions she held within the club.
“As president, you are basically the blood drive coordinator; you’re setting up where the blood drives are happening and how they’re run,” said Hizer. “They usually happen at HCC, and you have to submit forms to have that event in the digital auditorium. … I am also in contact with the members of the Red Cross Club, as well as those in the Pre-Health Society to coordinate volunteers and donor sign-ups.”
Hizer hopes that the open leadership positions for the Red Cross Club will soon be filled and that next year there will be more opportunities for a wider variety of events, bringing in more UMW students and raising awareness about the importance of blood donation.
In a statement released on Jan. 11, 2022, the American Red Cross declared the most severe blood shortage crisis in over a decade, an issue that directly impacts patients and healthcare workers nationwide.
The Red Cross supplies 40% of the blood used in hospitals across the U.S., their website says. Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, there has been a 10% decline in overall donations. The Red Cross relies entirely on its volunteer donors for their blood supply, as blood cannot easily or effectively be manufactured in a lab.
In the last several weeks there has been less than a day’s blood supply, limiting the Red Cross’ ability to distribute to hospitals in need. Hospitals have reported receiving 25% less blood than the usual supply needed.
This shortage has had a local impact as well. The Charlottesville News First CBS-19 News channel did a spotlight on the impacts of the blood shortage at University of Virginia Hospital.
“In my career at Red Cross, I haven’t seen it like this,” said Kristopher Dumschat, Red Cross regional manager of communications. He cited multiple causes of the critical situation, including “weather events, staffing shortages, the pandemic playing in, health factors, increase in hospital demand you name it. It’s really put us in the position we’re in.”
UVA Hospital Blood Bank director James Gorham said, “We’re thinking about this every single day. … We have a patient blood management group that has implemented a number of measures to ensure that we’re not transfusing unnecessarily.” Gorham went on to describe the tension this adds to already overworked healthcare providers.
Mary Washington Healthcare has implemented a similar system of blood management to minimize use. Lisa Henry, vice president in marketing for Mary Washington Healthcare, said in a release that the hospital has not yet had to cancel any surgeries or procedures due to lack of available blood. However, the knowledge that the Red Cross may not be able to restock their vital supply remains in the minds of those working at the hospital.