BY WILLIAM PATRICK
Hours after a gunman killed 22 people Saturday, and injured 26 others, hundreds of residents from El Paso and neighboring communities gathered to donate blood to the victims.
Despite this spontaneous gesture of goodwill, however, officials at Carter BloodCare say not only Texas, but also the entire country needs blood now.
“There isn't enough for individual communities,” Cathy Farkas, a Carter tele-recruiter told the Herald-Press Tuesday. “Nationally, there is an average of just over a day's supply of blood products on hand.”
Three days' worth of blood is ideal, Carter officials said; levels haven't reached that high in many years.
Carter will put on a blood drive Monday, from 9 a.m. to noon, at the Palestine YMCA. Everyone older than 16 may donate, but those under 18 will need a parental waiver.
Those with questions may call Carter BloodCare at 817-412-5830, or visit them on the web at: http://www.carterbloodcare.org/
Carter supplies blood products throughout north, east, and central Texas. The western and southern parts of the state are served by Vitalant United Blood Services.
After the El Paso shooting, Carter shipped about a half liter of blood to El Paso to bolster Vitalant's supply. Carter spokesperson Keoni Holoman said she wished they could have done more.
“If they had needed more, I don't know what we would have done,” Holoman told the Herald-Press. “There just isn't enough.”
Summer is typically difficult for blood banks, Holoman said, as roughly 25 percent of blood donations come from high school blood drives. The lack of tragedy, she said, also plays a part.
“In absence of tragedy, people don't seem to think about giving blood,” Holoman said. “After 9-11, donors had to be turned away. Now, we're worried we won't be able to maintain or restock.”
With daily use outpacing donations by hundreds of units a day, Holoman said hospitals might soon have to prioritize surgeries. Elective surgeries might stop altogether.
“Once routine procedures will have to be prioritized by emergency,” she said. “Those waiting for operations could actually need to be triaged, as if they were in the emergency room.”
Bill Block, president and CEO of Blood Centers of America, a national organization of independent community blood centers and source plasma collection centers, said this year's shortage is as bad as any he has seen in his seven years at Blood Centers – or worse.
Block said he understands why donations increase after a tragedy, but people should realize blood is perishable and used every day. It must be restocked.
“Cancer patients, for instance, use a great deal of blood products,” he said. “They've made tremendous strides in treating cancer, but these treatments depend on a steady, reliable blood supply.”
Holoman said people need to prepare for not only a tragedy like El Paso, but also the people in their community who depend on regular blood donations.
“These people depend upon your kindness, your altruism,” she said. “There is no substitute for blood. We can't manufacture it. We can't use another source – we need you to donate.”