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National Blood Donor Month
Spouses Part of the Fight to Save Lives
By Lori A. Kuczmanski, ASBP Blood Donor Recruiter, Fort Bliss, Texas
Spouses play a vital role in saving lives. Because many service members are deferred from donating due to deployments and travel restrictions, the Armed Services Blood Program relies heavily on spouses, family members and friends for donations. In this photo, a pair of loyal donors give platelets to the military blood program.
Blood is essential for savings lives on the battlefield and in medical treatment facilities worldwide. As part of the Armed Services Blood Program—the official blood program of the U.S. military—the blood donor center at William Beaumont Army Medical Center at Fort Bliss, Texas, collects blood from the military community for the military community around the globe. Deployments and travel restrictions keep many active duty service members from donating, so the Armed Services Blood Program relies heavily on spouses, family members and friends for donations.
The military blood program has many moving parts working together to collect, process, store, distribute and transfuse blood worldwide. The Fort Bliss Blood Donor Center is just one of more than 20 blood donor centers and 81 transfusion centers in the U.S., Europe and Asia.
After returning from deployment, soldiers must be stateside for at least one year before they are eligible to donate blood again. Because of this requirement, countless soldiers are deferred during the one year period. Additionally, a large number of soldiers are also deferred because of the vCJD deferral, more commonly known as “Mad-Cow Disease.” Unfortunately, service members or family members who were in Europe more than six months during 1980 and 1996 are permanently deferred.
(Learn more about the vCJD deferral by visiting us
“Spouses are a part of the Army family, just like the soldier, and they too can come out and donate,” said Capt. Craig Mester, chief of blood services at the William Beaumont Army Medical Center. “Donating blood is an excellent way for spouses to contribute to the fight.”
In 2011, the William Beaumont Army Medical Center transfused more than 2,000 blood products—platelets, plasma and red blood cells. These products support the emergency room, surgeries for retired and injured soldiers and also numerous oncology patients.
“In some cases, oncology patients need blood transfusions because some aggressive treatments keep their bone marrow from working at full capacity,” said Mester. “The transfusions provide a little help in replacing blood cells that the bone marrow may have some trouble making fast enough.”
With a shelf life of only 42 days for blood, blood must be constantly replenished to ensure the blood supply is fresh and readily available when needed. If blood products are not available, the consequences can be fatal. On average, a combat casualty receives four units of blood—that means that four donors are needed to save the life of one person. Although those who donate say there is no better feeling than saving a life, about only five percent of eligible donors actually donate. That is why regular donors—those who commit to giving blood once a season—are so important in ensuring blood is available year-round.
“The only way we can succeed in our mission is if soldiers, spouses, family members, civilians and anyone else eligible to donate comes forward to volunteer to donate blood,” said Mester.
The Fort Bliss Blood Donor Center conducts monthly blood drives at Freedom Crossing and at the brigades, making blood donation convenient for those in the area. Spouses are strongly encouraged to donate blood—it’s one of the easiest ways to help an ill or injured service member.
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