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Give Local: The Value of Donating Blood in Times of Necessity

December 03, 2020


“This is all across the nation,” Marsha Uhl says. Uhl, the service line director for the laboratories across Penn Highlands Healthcare, is referring to the widespread drop in blood supply that has occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. She goes on to stress how important blood donations are at this time: “We really need to have the blood supply increase.”

The blood supply shortage is happening to hospitals everywhere, but in some places, the problem leads to a cancellation of procedures that aren’t directly life-saving. Fortunately, blood donations in our region are currently on the rise, thanks due in large part to Penn Highlands’ blood provider, the Community Blood Bank of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York, which has begun to offer free antibody testing to all donors who give blood at their drives. For some Penn Highlands facilities, this has led to nearly a 50-percent increase in blood donations in recent weeks, with members of the public both altruistic enough to give this life-saving support and eager to know whether they have been exposed to COVID-19—and how safe they are from contracting and transmitting it today.

While Community Blood Bank’s COVID-19 antibody-testing service certainly delivers useful intel to donors, it also plays an important part in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. “When donors test positive for antibodies, we’re using their plasma to help COVID-positive patients fight the virus,” explains Kathy Hastings with the Community Blood Bank. “We’re excited to be able to maximize the benefit to patients not only with blood donations, but now with plasma, as well.”  


This is especially true because when Community Blood Bank hosts a blood drive in our region, that blood stays here—whereas other blood providers may ship blood out of state, to places like Buffalo or Massachusetts, when it was actually donated within our community. Of course most blood donors intend for any patient anywhere to receive the blood product they might need, but the picture may change slightly when we realize that the blood we give could save the life of a loved one, or even ourselves—because only Community Blood Bank’s blood stays within Penn Highlands hospitals. “We don’t want to discourage someone from giving to any blood drive, but the blood that we give at the Community Blood Bank drives stays in our region,” Uhl says.

And while other blood providers have canceled their blood drives altogether, canceling is just not an option for healthcare organizations like Penn Highlands that stand as the only hospital in a community. Says Uhl: “We never cancel because we need blood for our patients who have other needs, such as our cancer patients, as well as surgery and trauma patients.”

In December, Community Blood Bank will host the following blood drives throughout our region to benefit Penn Highlands patients:

  • Tuesday, December 1 at Penn Highlands Elk (761 Johnsonburg Road, St. Marys) from 1:00 PM to 7:00 PM
  • Tuesday, December 1 at Treasure Lake Church (1427 Bay Road, Treasure Lake in DuBois) from 1:00 PM to 7:00 PM
  • Thursday, December 3 at Penn Highlands Brookville (100 Hospital Road, Brookville) from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM
  • Tuesday, December 8 at Du-San Ambulance Services (835 Beaver Drive, DuBois) from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM

Please note all COVID-19 safety precautions are in effect (Community Blood Bank also offers socially distant donor stations), and donors must wear masks.

A few insights about what your donation means: 

  • One in three individuals entering the hospital will require blood products.
  • Twenty percent of all blood products are used by cancer patients.
  • Each blood donation to the Community Blood Bank can help up to three patients.
  • Premature infants are the youngest blood recipients. A full-term infant is born with only one cup of blood in his or her body, while a premature infant has even less. In some cases, a transfusion is needed to help treat an underlying illness or help improve system functions. Other times, blood is simply needed to replace the blood that is drawn for testing.
  • If you see an emergency helicopter fly overhead, you are seeing blood donations in action. Stat MedEvac units carry O-Negative blood (the universal type) on board in case a victim needs to receive blood on-scene of an accident or while in transport.
  • If a hospital in our region runs out of blood and needs to procure it from another health system, that hospital may pay up to four times as much as they would pay to use blood from their own organization.
  • Community Blood Bank states that their donors throughout Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York give blood an average of two times per year. If all those donors gave just one more time each year, this would ensure that hospitals in our region would not see a blood product shortage.

During this time of challenge and through December when Community Blood Bank offers COVID-19 antibody testing, please consider saving a life by giving blood. Visit www.fourhearts.org to register for any of these drives—or, if you cannot give blood for medical reasons but would like to contribute toward high-quality patient care at Penn Highlands, please see us at www.phhealthcare.org/donate.