The Western Kentucky Regional Blood Center is still in high need of blood donations after poor weather conditions have cancelled drives and appointments. WKRBC officials spoke Wednesday about what to know before giving blood, the screening process, and the need for donors.
According to Vicki Ellis, WKRBC Director of Communications, Development and Recruitment, the need for blood hasn’t slowed down.
“With the ice storm cancellations, weather this week — we need blood, plain pure and simple,” she said during a virtual meeting with Judge-Executive Al Mattingly.
Ellis explained that WKRBC supplies blood to more than 250,000 individuals across a 10-county region of western Kentucky.
Last Saturday, the Blood Center held an emergency donation event with a specific request for O+ blood — drawing 103 units.
One-third of the population is O+, Ellis said, and the need for that blood type was extremely high at the time.
“Due to the cancellations, we’re extremely low,” Ellis said. “We supply six hospitals and three ambulances, so it goes pretty quickly.”
One of the biggest issues in attracting blood donors stems from uncertainty, Ellis said. Many people don’t know if they’re able to give blood due to medical conditions or medication they take, but Ellis said most potential donors screened at WKRBC are surprised to find out they’re eligible to give.
In the state of Kentucky, donors must be 17 years old and weigh 115 pounds to give blood. Each person is screened beforehand to address potential health concerns or other issues.
“We have to treat each donor as an individual,” Ellis said. “We encourage anyone who is not sure to schedule with us to come in, and we go through a screening process with you, and ask standardized questions. If there are any medical concerns, medications, travel issues — all of that would come out through this interview process we do.”
While WKRBC does not screen for HIV or hepatitis prior to taking blood, testing on that blood happens after it’s collected.
With shortages caused by lack of donations during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ellis said the Blood Center has been relying heavily on volunteer fire departments for blood.
“They have been our mainstay. Most of them host a blood drive every eight weeks for us,” she said. “One thing we can always count on are those volunteer fire departments. It has made a tremendous difference for us.”
Those interested in donating or being screened can call WKRBC at 270-684-9296 to make an appointment. Appointments can also be scheduled via the Blood Center’s Facebook Page.
Though Ellis said appointments were preferred at this time, she also said she wouldn’t turn away anyone willing to give.
“If you’re out and you feel compelled to donate blood and you just walked in,” she said, “we will not turn you away if we can safely collect your blood at that time.”.