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Volunteer spotlight: Give the gift of life this holiday with blood donation

  • Liz Sauchelli. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/12/2020 10:43:44 PM
Modified: 12/12/2020 10:43:42 PM

Winter is typically a slower time of year for blood donations. People go away for the holidays or don’t want to go out in the poor weather.

“December just tends to be a month that gets neglected,” said Denee MacKenzie, blood donor relations specialist at DHMC.

Most of the time, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center’s Blood Donor Program can manage by relying on supplies from other sources, but the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the flow of donations, making the outlook for this winter worse than in past years.

“We are not able to get surplus blood from anywhere in the country,” said Dr. Nancy Dunbar, medical director of DHMC’s Blood Bank. “We really find this December more than any other to be particularly challenging.”

It isn’t just a shortage of donors, Dunbar said. It’s also the effect of pandemic-related quarantines on the staff needed to process blood donations. DHMC gets 20-30% of its blood from local donors and relies on national suppliers for the rest.

“We’re relying more on the local collections to fill that need,” Dunbar said.

There are a number of protocols in place to keep donors safe. People are required to make appointments and each blood donation station is sanitized between visits, among other safety precautions.

“We don’t want people sitting in a packed waiting room,” MacKenzie said.

The pandemic has not greatly increased the amount of blood that DHMC needs. Instead, the shortage is impacting the health care system’s ability to keep its supply at the same levels.

“Even when our operating rooms were pausing elective surgeries, we didn’t see a dramatic difference,” Dunbar said, noting that elective surgeries do not typically require blood donations. “They are people who are injuring themselves or who have cancer that doesn’t care about COVID.”

People can cross state lines to donate blood even with travel restrictions in place, MacKenzie said. If they have previously tested positive for COVID-19, they can donate 28 days from when they were last symptomatic. Donors must be 17 or older.

One misconception people have is that if they have diabetes or are on blood pressure medication, that prevents them from being able to donate.

“As long as someone is maintaining those things, they can donate,” MacKenzie said.

It’s not just December when donations are needed. MacKenzie and Dunbar are encouraging people to schedule appointments for January and February as well.

And if people want to help but cannot donate, they can still protect health care workers by continuing to wear masks, social-distancing and following other COVID-19 safety protocols.

“That’s really important as we go into winter,” Dunbar said.

When the pandemic started, there were concerns about what it would do to the blood supply and DHMC put out the call for more donors.

“In the beginning in March where everything really hit, we had a phenomenal turnout from the community,” MacKenzie said.

Now, they’re hoping the community will rally once again.

Editor’s note: For more information about DHMC’s blood donor program or to schedule an appointment, visit dartmouth-hitchcock.org/blood-donor-program.html or call 603-653-3775.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.




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