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Blood Donations Given Now Unlikely To Go To Harvey Victims, But Still Needed At Home

Tom Banse
Northwest News Network
The largest regional blood network, Bloodworks Northwest, sent emergency supplies to Texas last week and again on Monday.

In the wake of disasters like Hurricane Harvey, you often hear calls to donate blood. In this instance, it was people who gave blood before the storm who helped the disaster victims.

If you give blood at this point, your donation is likely to stay home -- where it is welcome and needed.

Before Hurricane Harvey made landfall, the American Association of Blood Banks sent out a call to pre-position emergency supplies. Bloodworks Northwest responded with shipments of blood components to Corpus Christi and later to Dallas. Houston's Gulf Coast Blood Center suspended operations for about four days, but is now back up and running. ?

Bloodworks Northwest CEO Dr. James AuBuchon said this illustrates a disaster lesson: Donating afterwards can be too late.

"We always have to have blood available when it is needed,” he said. “Donating afterwards is a wonderful way to replace the supply. But we have to have the blood ready to go whenever there is a disaster."

AuBuchon said keep an eye out for local blood drives in the coming weeks. The blood you give would be on hand for the next emergency.

You may have noticed few, if any, pictures of bleeding victims in the wall-to-wall coverage of the Texas catastrophe. AuBuchon said most of the blood shipped from the Pacific Northwest was likely used in support of patients who were already in the hospital when the storm hit, for example patients receiving chemotherapy or who recently had a bone marrow transplant. ?

"Although there probably weren't that many traumatic injuries that required emergency transfusions because of the storm, there were patients who needed ongoing support despite the storm," AuBuchon said. "Just because the hospital was surrounded by water didn't stop that."

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.