What a (Record-Breaking) Year!
Story by Mark Salcedo, ASBP Blood Donor Recruiter, Fort Sam Houston, Texas
Published March 12, 2013
Sailors from the Navy's Medical Training Support Command donate blood to the Armed Services Blood Program.
The bottom line is that donating blood to the Armed Services Blood Program is safe, simple and it saves lives. There is no substitute for it, and the donors around Fort Sam Houston, Texas, know it.
Last year, a record-breaking 10,418 donors participated in 308 blood drives at the Akeroyd Blood Donor Center and mobile blood drives around the installation. This means that the blood donor center staff was able to produce 7,095 units of blood and 1,060 units of platelets for the patients at the San Antonio Military Medical Center.
"This is an outstanding achievement for the donor center," said Maj. Warren Brown, officer-in-charge of the Akeroyd Blood Donor Center. "The blood donor centerís mission continues to be challenging year after year because we are responsible for providing blood to wounded warriors, family members, retirees, and others receiving care at the San Antonio Military Medical Center. However, 2012 was a great year for the center."
According to Brown, that success was due in large part to the three medical training commandsóthe 32nd Medical Brigade, 937th Training Squadron, and the Navy Medical Training Support Commandóthat provided motivation and encouragement to their soldiers, sailors and airmen. The recruiting and marketing team at the Akeroyd Blood Donor Center also played a key role in getting donors through the door.
"The dedication of our recruiting and marketing team was instrumental in increasing awareness and coordinating blood drives and additional platelet donors," said Brown. "Our collection team, which is comprised of both military members and civilians, did an outstanding job getting donors processed in the limited time we have each day."
"Every year we focus on our trainee blood drives trying to keep up with blood demands at the hospital," said Staff Sgt. Thomas Beauchemin, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the Akeroyd Blood Donor Center. "These service members in training are young and healthy so the donor center depends on their participation. Each month, we try to collect as much as possible for our patients because there is a need for blood. We have trauma patients who need blood in emergency situations and transplant and cancer patients who may use blood every day. This means the donor center needs donors every day. In 2011, the center processed about 8,300 donors. In 2012, we saw a 29 percent increase in participation. Thatís exceptional!"
With todayís advances in medical treatments and increasingly sophisticated procedures for trauma care and bone marrow transplants, the demand for blood continues to rise. This past year, nearly 170 patients received blood at the San Antonio Military Medical Center as part of their treatment each month. These patients used more than 14,000 units of blood, platelets and plasma.
"Having this many donors volunteer in 2012 was absolutely incredible," said Beauchemin. "For many of our command teams, itís more than sponsoring a blood driveóitís a point of pride for their units! Most importantly, collecting these donations meant we were able to provide more blood to our patients at the San Antonio Military Medical Center."
Unfortunately, the lack of eligible blood donors continues to be a serious problem for both the military and civilian blood programs. Travel, medications, diseases, and high-risk behaviors are among the few eligibility criteria that the Akeroyd Blood Donor Center must consider when screening potential blood donors. Because of those factors, the militaryís pool of eligible donors varies between 45 and 55 percent. According to the AABB (formerly the American Association of Blood Banks), nationally, less than 10 percent of the U.S. population donates blood. For the Armed Services Blood Program, about 20 percent of the eligible military population donates.
"Since blood cannot be made synthetically, it has to come from people's generosity. Itís a vital community service that our students and staff are performing," said Brown. "Military blood donor centers throughout the country rely on the generosity of volunteer blood donors to meet the critical blood product needs of their installations. Our students and training commands continue to respond to this need time and time again."
The Akeroyd Blood Donor Center doesnít plan on leaving this record-breaking year in the books for long. In fact, staff members are hoping for an even better 2013.
"This year, weíre asking our Fort Sam Houston tenant units to come forward and sponsor more blood drives and to do it regularly," said Brown. "The Akeroyd Blood Donor Centerís mission in 2013 is to increase by at least 10 percent, and this is only going to happen by getting everyone involved."
Getting involved is easy. To find an upcoming blood drive and schedule an appointment online visit https://www.militarydonor.com and enter the sponsor code "ABDC." Walk-in donors are always welcome at the Akeroyd Blood Donor Center. The center is open from 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday and Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 am. The center is located at B1240 Harney Road, behind Budge Dental Clinic on Fort Sam Houston. For more information, please call the Armed Services Blood Program blood donor recruiter directly at (210) 295-4655 or (210) 295-4989.
To find out more about how you can help the Armed Services Blood Program or to schedule an appointment to donate, please visit us online: www.militaryblood.dod.mil. To interact with some of our staff, see more photos or to get the latest news, visit us here: http://www.facebook.com/militaryblood, http://www.flickr.com/militaryblood and http://www.twitter.com/militaryblood.