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Pratt donors reach milestones for Red Cross

Gale Rose
Red Cross phlebotomist Julie Johnson prepares blood donor Karen Lemon for her donation at a blood drive on March 19 in Pratt. Many blood drives across America have been canceled so every pint is more important than ever.

Pratt area residents rolled up their sleeves March 19 and took part in a blood donation at the Pratt Community Center.

With the outbreak of COVID-19, thousands of blood drives have been canceled across the United States and the blood supply is very short, said Jan Hale, communication manager for the American Red Cross.

As of March 20, some 5,000 blood drives have been canceled nation wide and that amounts to 107,000 missed blood donations. The blood supply is 150,000 pints short but the need for blood has not changed.

"It's just staggering," Hale said. "Every two seconds someone in the country needs blood."

While the Pratt blood donations were small compared to the need, every donation is vital.

Dan McAnarney, local blood drive coordinator, said they collected almost 9 gallons of blood. The goal of the Pratt blood drive was 58 units. Thanks to the registered donors and the walk-ins, a total of 71 units were collected of which 52 units were whole blood and 10 were power red that count as two donations.

The next scheduled blood drive in Pratt is Friday, May 22. McAnarney said he has noticed that over the years, more donors have been coming to Pratt from out of town. Donors came from Stafford, Cunningham and Arlington on Thursday. He said he also saw people coming without an appointment.

"I noticed we had more walk-ins than we usually had," McAnarney said.

There was an obvious change in protocol at the Pratt blood drive, due to COVID-19 concerns. Every person who entered the donation room had their temperature taken and they had to wash their hands with sanitizer. Donors had to sit several feet apart while they waited to complete the screening process.

Every donation cot was wiped down completely and allowed to dry after each donor. The canteen tables are usually decorated but were not Thursday. All the tables and chairs in the room were wiped down with disinfectant. People were only allowed on one side of the canteen tables and they had to sit several feet apart, McAnarney said.

Usually, there are volunteers to help the Red Cross workers set up the donation area but it was just the Red Cross doing the set up. The drive was scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m. but was about 20 minutes late and that made the whole day late. But people understood the situation and the importance of donating.

"There were numerous infection controls and it took longer for donors to get through. Everybody was patient and understanding," McAnarney said.

Donor Karen Lemon was one of those that waited. She said there is always a need for blood and it doesn't cost a penny to donate.

"It's extremely important we had this drive," said Hale. “We are so thankful for everyone who stepped up to donate at the Pratt event.”

The closing of the schools, colleges and universities has hit the blood supply hard. About 20 percent of all donations come from high school and college blood drives. The Kansas State University blood drive is still being held but at two locations off campus.

The Red Cross is not canceling the already scheduled blood drives but some event sponsors are choosing to cancel. The Red Cross is finding alternative locations for drives.

"In a lot of cases, we're finding a lot of alternatives for donation sites," Hale said.

Any time the blood pipeline is disrupted, the situation is immediately difficult for two types of blood. Type O positive is the most common blood type and O negative, that is found in only seven percent of the population, is the universal donor that anyone can receive.

Blood is necessary for so many reasons including cancer patients taking chemo therapy, emergencies, new mothers with difficulty at birth, transplants and people injured in accidents, Hale said.

"We just need our donors to make sure it's there," Hale said.

Across the country, people are recognizing the need for blood. At redcrossblood.org, so many people logged on that it crashed the site. By Monday it was up and running again.

Potential donors can go to the web site or call toll free at 1-800 REDCROSS. Donors must be at least 17 or 16 with parents permission, they have to weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health.

Anyone who has traveled to China, Macau, Hong Kong, Italy, Iran or South Korea has to wait 28 days before they can consider giving.

Many of people at the March 19 donation event in Pratt were repeat donors. Several reached various gallon milestones. Special recognition goes to the following: Justin Bailey - 2 gallons, Ryan Ruckle and Frank Hopkins - 5 gallons, Leonard Pohl and Clinton Bullard - 7 gallons, Ryan Waters and Tim Helsel - 8 gallons, Jesse Jensen - 9 gallons, Dianne Thomas and Mike Snell - 10 gallons, Richard Cole - 20 gallons.