Local blood banks sent out an urgent appeal for donors this week, after an Amtrak passenger train derailed off an Interstate 5 overpass between Tacoma and Olympia Monday morning, killing three people and injuring more than 70 others.
The incident stressed regional blood banks, said James P. AuBuchon, MD, president and CEO of Bloodworks Northwest, a nonprofit that provides donated blood to more than 90 hospitals in Washington, Oregon and Alaska, including PeaceHealth hospitals in Southwest Washington.
“Bloodworks has issued more than 150 units of blood to respond to emergency orders from hospitals receiving people injured in the tragedy,” AuBuchon said Monday. “Many of the casualties have been taken to South Sound hospitals — including St. Joseph’s Medical Center, St. Peter’s Hospital and Madigan Army Medical Center — who all depend on Bloodworks to meet their patient needs. … We need to replenish our supplies to meet the needs of injured people today, and in the days ahead, as well as to meet normal needs.”
Bloodworks Northwest representatives said O-type blood, AB plasma and platelets are especially needed, but that people of all blood types are, of course, encouraged to donate blood.
“Having blood already on the shelves is essential when unforeseeable emergencies or tragedies happen,” AuBuchon said. “To avoid a crisis for the local blood supply, we’re urging donors who have not donated recently to schedule an appointment as soon as they can at a donor center or mobile drive.”
On Monday, Bloodworks Northwest was set up at the Camas Public Library in downtown Camas, collecting blood from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The blood drive is part of the group’s normal, every-two-months schedule at the Camas library, but phlebotomists Jake Cole and Leah Hauge said they tend to see an uptick in donors after major incidents like the trail derailment — even for emergencies that aren’t necessarily connected to the Pacific Northwest.
“After the Orlando shooting, we were inundated with people,” Cole said, referring to the 2016 shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that killed 49 people and injured 58 others.
The new donations are critical in helping local and regional blood banks restore their supplies after major medical incidents like Monday’s train derailment, Cole and Hauge said.
AuBuchon added that Bloodworks tends to see a drop in donors during the winter holidays.
“During the holidays the number of donors visiting our centers and drives goes down by 15 to 20 percent — with high schools and colleges on break, and people busy with social gatherings and vacations. Since blood can be broken down into components, every donation can potentially help three people,” AuBuchon said. “Donors who can’t come in today can still help our community respond to this tragedy by scheduling a donation for tomorrow, or during the rest of this week. This will help meet the needs of accident victims receiving ongoing care and help us replenish our supply. ”
To find a donation center near you, visit bloodworksnw.org. Appointments are encouraged, but the centers will take walk-ins. To make an appointment to donate your blood, visit schedule.bloodworksnw.org or call 1-800-398-7888.
The Vancouver Bloodworks Northwest donation center is located at 9320 N.E. Vancouver Mall Blvd., Suite 100, Vancouver. The center will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, but is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., on the two Saturdays preceding the holidays, Dec. 23 and Dec. 30. For more information and hours, visit http://www.bloodworksnw.org/donate/locations/vancouver.
Cole said donating blood takes less than an hour, from registration to donating to being ready to walk out the door.
“It’s typically a 30- to 45-minute process,” he said.
Cole added that donated blood usually makes its way to a person in need within two weeks. Even though blood donated today likely won’t help victims of the Amtrak crash, it will help blood banks replenish their supplies.
If you can’t donate over the holidays, the Camas Church of the Nazarene is hosting a blood drive through the American Red Cross from 1 to 6:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 5, at the church, 2204 N.E. Birch St., Camas. For more information about this event, and to reserve a donation time, contact Gared Skorick at 360-607-2382 or at Skorick.G.L@gmail.com.