A donor gives blood at the Blood Bank of Alaska’s Juneau center. The BBA recently issued a news release asking for donations to coincide with National Blood Donor Month.(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

A donor gives blood at the Blood Bank of Alaska’s Juneau center. The BBA recently issued a news release asking for donations to coincide with National Blood Donor Month.(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

‘There is an urgency’: Blood Bank of Alaska puts out call for donors

The request comes amid National Blood Donor Month.

This article has been moved in front of the Empire’s paywall.

Juneau resident Moria Barney sees the importance of donating blood through the medical treatment that helps her friends. That’s why Barney, who has Type O-negative blood, is a frequent donor.

“I’ve got friends who have cancer and they need blood donations a lot and I have a universal blood donor type, so I donate as often as possible because I know a lot of people need the blood,” Barney said. “I donate as often as they let me.”

Although blood donors are needed year round to save lives, January has been designated as National Blood Donor Month since the 1970s as a way of raising awareness about the need for blood.

In a recent news release, the Blood Bank of Alaska stated that winter months pose challenges to donors, including weather conditions and hectic schedules, and right along with that, the blood bank noted the weather has also created challenges to the logistics of blood collection throughout the state as well as the Lower 48.

Blood Bank of Alaska is in critical need for O-positive and O-negative donors. Due to the use of these blood types and logistical challenges there is an immediate need for donors at all Alaska centers. Blood Bank of Alaska CEO Robert Scanlon said that while the blood bank is currently able to meet the demands of hospitals, there is no room for error with regards to distributing blood.

“There is an urgency, we’re able to meet the routine needs right now, but we’re doing it by the skin of our teeth,” Scanlon said. “We have to pretty much measure twice and cut once in regards to planning blood collections, so we’re doing our best to make sure that not only do we have enough for the routine needs but we have enough for any type of unexpected emergency need that rears its head, and of course, that’s unpredictable. With fewer people coming in, it makes it that much more difficult, there isn’t the room to maneuver that we typically have in regards to supplying the hospitals.”

Scanlon said that while every unit of blood collected, no matter the type, is important, there is always an especial interest in O-positive and O-negative blood because of how widely they’re used. According to the news release, on average 37% of those eligible to donate are O-positive and it can be donated to most other blood types. O-negative donors are the universal donor, but only 7% of people have this blood type, which makes the blood type especially important for traumas that require immediate transfusion.

With the winter weather being a concern, Scanlon said the blood bank wants everyone to be safe, so if it’s a safety concern that keeps someone from making that donation, then it’s the position of the blood bank to fully support the donor’s position in doing what’s best for maintaining safety. Having that said, for anyone with the time and ability, Scanlon said the blood bank highly encourages those individuals to come in for donations because the need for blood doesn’t cease because of poor weather, in fact, it often increases.

“The need tends to increase because you have a higher likelihood of automobile or snow machine accidents, skiing accidents, heart attacks, all of that stuff happens in the winter,” Scanlon said. “So, the routine need for blood and the emergency need for blood doesn’t change, so we need the donor to come in and provide us with that gift of life so that your fellow Alaskans can celebrate another birthday, Christmas, graduation of their high schooler or grade schooler or even witness the birth of their child, it’s important stuff. The decision to donate or not to donate is literally a life decision.”

Additionally, Scanlon said that with the blood bank recently celebrating its 60th anniversary, he wanted to personally thank all of the donors over the course of those 60 years that helped make the Blood Bank of Alaska possible.

Blood Bank of Alaska is the sole blood bank located in Alaska. Blood can be donated at local area blood centers located in Anchorage, Wasilla, Fairbanks and Juneau. The blood bank asks donors to call (907)222-5630 or visit bloodbankofalaska.org to make an appointment, but they’re currently accepting walk-ins for O-negative donors.

• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at jonson.kuhn@juneauempire.com.

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