• 77°

Blood Center holding blood drive to meet growing need

The Blood Center in Picayune will hold its first blood drive since temporarily closing due to the pandemic on May 7 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Picayune location.

The center is in desperate need of donors, said Kristi Garner-Womack, because many surgeries that were being postponed due to the pandemic have resumed locally and nationally.

There has been a spike in the need for blood components, especially for heart, cancer and orthopedic surgeries.

“We are going to have to amp up our mobile blood drives to try to keep up with the (demand),” said Garner-Womack.

People are always asked to only donate blood if they are well and healthy. In the past if someone had a cold or allergies they would still be allowed to donate. But, since some COVID-19 symptoms are similar to the flu or allergies, the center is being more cautious so anyone with flu like symptoms or allergies is asked not to come in.

“We want everybody to be completely symptom free of even allergies,” said Garner-Womack. “I know that’s going to limit the donor base, but it will also protect the donor base that we have.”

The center will also be practicing social distancing while collecting blood donations. Donors are asked to make an appointment, whether online or by phone, before coming in to provide blood to make sure that people do not have to wait outside or in large groups.

Along with blood donors, the center is searching for anyone willing to host blood drives. The center cannot use its blood mobiles effectively, because social distancing limits their collection process to only two to three donors in the blood mobile at one time.

“Anyone willing to host a blood drive, we would be extraordinarily grateful at this time,” said Garner-Womack.

The center is also looking for plasma donations from people who have previously tested positive for COVID-19. The convalescent plasma is being used to give current coronavirus patients blood transfusions. One plasma donor can help three or four COVID-19 patients, said Garner-Womack.

“People who tested positive now have antibodies in their plasma,” she said. “Those antibodies in the plasma when they do the transfusion help the patient fight off the viral infection.”

While there is no cure for COVID-19, the center has seen COVID-19 patients on ventilators in serious condition dramatically improve after receiving transfusions from people who had tested positive for COVID-19 and recovered or didn’t have symptoms, said Garner-Womack.

According to the FDA website, convalescent plasma collected from people who have recovered from COVID-19 is an investigational treatment being explored. The FDA describes the treatment as “promising” but states it has not yet been shown to be safe and effective and must be studied in clinical trials.

To make an appointment for the blood drive, visit thebloodcenter.org or call Garner-Womack at 985-635-9613. For people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and would like to donate plasma, visit tbc.bio-linked.org or contact Suzy Potter at 504-939-9609.