2018-11-09 / Front Page

THE GIFT OF LIFE

No better time to give than the holidays
Laura Levering
Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office


Pfc. Robert Brann, 551st Signal Battalion, donates blood Nov. 2, with phlebotomy service courtesy of Spc. Tyler Ghysels, Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Pfc. Robert Brann, 551st Signal Battalion, donates blood Nov. 2, with phlebotomy service courtesy of Spc. Tyler Ghysels, Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office It doesn’t cost the giver money, nor can it be wrapped and placed under a tree. Yet for those on the receiving end, it can be the perfect, priceless gift, and its impact can last a lifetime.

The holiday season is one of the most critical times of year for blood donation centers around the country. Fort Gordon’s Kendrick Memorial Blood Center is no exception.

Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center and the Armed Services Blood Program rely on KMBC for blood donations year-round.

And although the center receives a steady flow of blood from donors across the installation – its largest contributor being 15th Signal Regiment Brigade – it decreases dramatically in December.


Dealing with paperwork and the initial processing of whole blood are Sgt. Clint Robinson, left, Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center, and Sgt. James Boonamnuaysuk, also with DDEAMC. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Dealing with paperwork and the initial processing of whole blood are Sgt. Clint Robinson, left, Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center, and Sgt. James Boonamnuaysuk, also with DDEAMC. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office “Just the busyness of the holiday season can interrupt their regular routines, and we’re not able to collect as much to take care of our troops overseas,” said Erin Longacre, Fort Gordon donor recruiter, ASBP. “During that two-week time period of block leave, it’s more difficult to get donors, so we always try to step up our collections during the holidays to make sure we’re still meeting those needs.”

The ASBP is the official blood collection, manufacturing and transfusion program for the U.S. military. Its mission is to “provide quality blood products and services in both peace and war.”


Spc. Julie Alvarez (armed with Halloween candy), Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center, tosses out some trivia questions for blood donors to ponder as they wait for their post-donation transportation Nov. 2. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Spc. Julie Alvarez (armed with Halloween candy), Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center, tosses out some trivia questions for blood donors to ponder as they wait for their post-donation transportation Nov. 2. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office In addition to supporting DDEAMC with blood supplies, KMBC provides a majority of its blood product to U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility, which then sends blood products to deployed Servicemembers overseas on a weekly basis.

“We process the blood into different parts – the red blood cells and the plasma being the two main components – and we send those into theater weekly for our deployed troops,” Longacre explained.

Although donors of all blood types are encouraged to give, those with O negative blood are especially needed because it is considered “universal,” meaning anyone can receive it.


Sgt. Clint Robinson, Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center, prepares vials of blood for their next phase of traveling from donors to recipients. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Sgt. Clint Robinson, Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center, prepares vials of blood for their next phase of traveling from donors to recipients. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office “We also have a direct mission to support some Special Operations elements with type O blood; that’s all they want,” Longacre said. “In a combat situation, it is the best thing to have on hand.”

Whole blood is also becoming in higher demand and a greater focus of the ASBP.

“What’s special about whole blood is that it’s not broken down into parts,” she said. “It’s given right to the patient just as if it were straight from one person’s arm to another.”

When it comes to processing blood, time is of the essence and never wasted. Donations are processed immediately and leave the center on the third day of collection.


Packets of blood are chilled in preparation for shipment overseas from Fort Gordon Blood Donor Center, at 48 Central Hospital Court. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Packets of blood are chilled in preparation for shipment overseas from Fort Gordon Blood Donor Center, at 48 Central Hospital Court. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office “We want to get it there quickly, and we want it to have the longest shelf life possible when it gets into theater,” Longacre said.

It is all the more reason to donate, she added.

“I tell people that it’s a very small amount of time and a small amount of blood that their body is going to make back anyway, but that it can make the difference between someone coming home to their family or not, and that’s a huge deal,” Longacre said.

As an added incentive, Servicemembers may now become eligible to receive an Army Achievement Medal for donating blood platelets or plasma. Longacre said to call the center for more details.

KMBC is open for walk-in donations Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Friday by appointment only.

It is located in Building BDC 001 on 48 Central Hospital Court. Anyone who wants to schedule an appointment or who has questions is invited to drop by or call (706) 787-2800/3234.

Federal holidays aside, KMBC will operate under normal business hours throughout the holiday season.

“We stay and we draw blood, platelets, and plasma throughout because we want to try to get all those products that we need for the troops,” Longacre said.

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