The Kalona Optimist Club hosted a blood drive on Monday, Jan. 11 in the fellowship hall at the Kalona Mennonite Church. While many elective and non-emergent surgeries were postponed during the first several months of the pandemic, their resumption has created a renewed need for blood. The Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center facilitated the blood drive.
Currently the blood center is advertising a need for type O red blood cells, AB plasma, and convalescent plasma, which can be collected from those who have recovered from COVID-19 in order to help those currently battling the disease.
“The need for blood fluctuates day to day based on the needs of the hospitals that we provide to. One day, we might have one blood type higher than the other, so we don’t have a great need for it that day, but then the next day could drastically change overnight,” said charge nurse Hannah Mercer. “There’s always a need. We tell people they should come in regardless of the situation that’s going on in the world because blood is always needed.”
Because they deal with blood and bodily fluids, the blood center staff is used to strict cleaning and sanitization measures, which have only been ramped up since the onset of the pandemic.
“We didn’t change a lot of our cleaning processes just because we are dealing with blood, so we clean regardless of any situation,” Mercer said. “We do clean everything after any person has used it, even staff. We try to keep everything pretty clean. We sanitize constantly — your hands definitely pay for it.”
Every donor must wear a mask for the duration of their visit, except when eating a snack after donation to stabilize blood sugar and fluid levels. The blood center staff also tries to socially distance as much as possible according to the space their given to set up their equipment.
Mercer said the blood center staff have been making sure to communicate to donors and potential donors that donating blood right now is safe.
“When people have expressed that they’re nervous, we remind them that all presenting donors should be healthy, so there shouldn’t be anybody here that is sick with anything, just because of our criteria of accepting blood,” Mercer said. “Everybody has to wear a mask, from walking in the door and through the donation. We sanitize everything after every use… We’re willing to be lenient on things, like where you want to sit to have your snack. We can move a complete table over if you want to sit by yourself, we’re very accommodating in that aspect.”
Alice Beachy came in to give a donation of red blood cells on Jan. 11. She said she usually donates blood about four times a year and the only real difference she noticed this time around was the masks. Otherwise, it was business as usual.
“I like to help people,” Beachy said. “This is one easy way that I can help people… I like that the blood drives come to our community. It makes it very easy to stop by and donate blood.”
The Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center has locations in Iowa City/Coralville, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Dubuque, Burlington, Muscatine and Ottumwa. Potential donors can schedule an appointment by calling 1-800-747-5401 or visiting bloodcenter.org.