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Blood donations needed now more than ever, as hospitals open and weather warms up



FILE - A person donates blood as they talk with an American Red Cross staffer during a Red Cross and Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team blood drive at Chase Field Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

They want your blood again. Hospitals are ramping back up with things like elective surgeries, and people are getting outside, active and hurt.

So, blood banks are asking to come donate. It’s especially difficult now to keep stocked, since regular drives aren’t happening. Thanks COVID-19.

For those who can donate, call 877-Be-A-Hero or schedule online here.

When it comes to events that have hampered things like blood banks, this coronavirus pandemic is alone in the top tier of the rankings, according to Dr. Wayne Bottner, and he should know. He’s been the medical director of the blood bank at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse for 20 years.


“There’s nothing that compares, even close,” he said Tuesday on La Crosse Talk PM. “I’m having trouble even thinking of something I would even put in the same category, because COVID didn’t just disrupt the blood supply. It disrupted everything in health care.

The 36-year doc isn’t worried, though, just cautious.

“We’ll get through this shortage,” Bottner said, “but, because we don’t know the future with COVID, and how long this is going to play out, most of us think the blood supply is going to ebb and flow much more than it has historically and we’ve all got to be prepared.”

Bottner discussed how this is the most important time of the year — pandemic or not — to get donations, because, again, the weather is warming and people that are out and about are going to end up getting in accidents more often.

The time around July 4, he said, is when it’s the most needed. With blood having a shelf life of six weeks, that puts the timetable right around that holiday.

But, what makes the blood banks’ job more difficult to navigate, they’re always trying to keep the supply right in line with the need, so no blood is thrown out — though we didn’t get into how exactly that happens.

“Even in the best of times, the margins between what we’re able to collect and what hospitals need, is really quite slim, and we’re very dependent on people donating all the time,” Bottner said. “The COVID pandemic really threw a monkey wrench into the works for a lot of reasons.”

What the pandemic did to blood banks was frighten off anyone coming to the hospital to donate, for fear of getting the virus. And hospitals needed those people to come in, because the pandemic shut down a lot of organizations that ran blood drives.

“And that all shut down, virtually, overnight,” Bottner said.

So, there was absolutely no time to plan ahead, knowing drives at schools and churches, for example, would just cease to exist.

Host of WIZM's La Crosse Talk PM | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate | Hometown: Greenville, Wis | Avid noonball basketball player and sand volleyballer in La Crosse

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