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Alaska still needs blood donations, but no shortage in the 49th state

Updated: Jun. 29, 2021 at 7:00 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Nationally, there is a critical need for blood donations this summer. However, the Blood Bank of Alaska reports that while they definitely want more donations, there isn’t the same kind of urgency in the Last Frontier.

According to a joint statement from America’s Blood Centers, the American Red Cross and the AABB, blood donations are “critically needed” now and through the summer, as many hospitals return to more of their normal practices and resume nonessential surgeries and other treatments that include the use of blood and blood components.

Blood Bank of Alaska CEO Bob Scanlon said historically, Alaska’s need for donations usually isn’t as urgent as it can be in the Lower 48. He attributes that to Alaskans’ sense of community.

“Self reliance isn’t just something nice to see, it’s something that you have to pursue and our donors have been good enough to do that for us,” Scanlon said. “They’ve kept us in mind throughout the pandemic, they’ve made appointments and they’ve kept those appointments and the end result is that we have blood on the shelves, platelets on the shelf and we’ve been able to respond to the hospitals appropriately.”

The blood bank is always looking for more donors, though. Scanlon said in particular, they are looking for more O positive, O negative, and A negative donations.

Scanlon said part of the increased need nationwide is due to the pandemic starting to let up, and people getting back on the operating table. He said there is somewhere between a 14 and 15% increase in demand since elective surgeries started back up.

It’s people like Ed Lamm who are helping keep the flow of donations going. According to the Blood Bank of Alaska, Lamm’s face is one of the most familiar around, because he’s donated more blood than anyone else has recently.

He said he started to donate so regularly because he saw someone else doing it around 50 years ago.

“Al Fleet was his name and he donated 10 gallons,” Lamm said. “And that impressed me. And I decided, well I can do that.”

Lamm said he’s been a donor for almost 50 years, throughout which he has made 574 donations amounting to almost 72 gallons of blood.

Lately, he said he’s been donating platelets every week. Those aren’t like a standard blood donation, and can be donated that often.

He said he’s never needed blood himself, and hasn’t ever met anyone who he knew for sure received his blood. But Lamm said that’s not the point.

Some of it could have gone to Carol Defreez, who was donating just a few chairs over from him. She said she needed a transfusion in the ’80s when her daughter was born and there were complications.

“Because somebody else donated, I was able to live,’ Defreez said. “Because I would not have.”

Scanlon said all the workers at the blood bank are still wearing masks, but vaccinated individuals don’t need to. He said they have gotten a lot of calls about tracking blood donations from people who have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The answer is no, we are not tracking that because there is no scientific data that points to any type of threat in regards to either not receiving the vaccine or receiving the vaccine for blood donations,” he said.

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