The Fort Jackson community came together June 2 to help save lives by donating units of whole blood at the post’s Solomon Center. Though the blood drive was typical, it looked anything but with donor beds, chairs and screening stations spaced well over six feet apart.
“I feel safe here,” said U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson Commander Brig. Gen. Milford “Beags” Beagle Jr. “There are lots of procedures here to ensure safety.”
Since the start of COVID-19 precautionary measures such as stay at home orders, social distancing and closures of non-essential businesses, blood supplies have dropped across the nation as well as the Palmetto State.
“We’ve lost about 70% of donations locally since COVID-19,” said William Sexton, Fort Jackson American Red Cross ambassador and installation fire inspector. “The need for blood hasn’t stopped.”
As businesses shuttered and Columbia, South Carolina, residents spent more time at home due to the pandemic, the chances for injury didn’t slow down. While some tried do-it-yourself projects while sequestered at home, it caused some residents to land in the emergency room with scrapes, burns, puncture wounds and in some cases severe lacerations or open fractures that required blood transfusions.
Equally, motor vehicle accidents and medical conditions didn’t take a break either during the pandemic. Blood and blood product demands remained steady as the amount of donations decreased.
“You never know whose life you could be saving,” said Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Reosti, a 282nd Army Band member and longtime blood donor. “I’ve been giving blood since I joined the Army and for my dad.”
Reosti lost his father roughly 25 years ago to a brain aneurism. Though difficult to detect, had the aneurism been caught early, a blood transfusion may have saved his life. Since then, Reosti donates blood in memory of his father and to help save the lives of his fellow Soldiers and citizens.
“He didn’t know he had the aneurism and bled to death,” Reosti said. “(My father) served in World War II with the Air Corps.”
Reosti said he also felt safe while donating blood. “They are very professional,” he said.
Donors were greeted at the entrance by staff who asked virus exposure questions and took temperatures while Sexton manned the check-in table about 15 feet away. Once check-in was complete, donors waited in chairs placed more than six feet apart for an American Red Cross phlebotomist to call them forward for screening and donation.
“It goes pretty quick,” Reosti said.
“I would say it takes about an hour from the time you walk in to the time you walk out,” Sexton said. “But those using the Rapid Pass have been walking out in about 30 minutes.”
The Rapid Pass system can be accessed online or through the Red Cross mobile app. Donors can pre-fill out questionnaires to save time once arrived to the donor site.
“If you missed todays drive, you can use the app or American Red Cross website to see all the upcoming drives by zip code,” Sexton said.
“There’s always a need for blood,” Beagle said. “Put your fears aside, it’s not a “me” thing, it’s a “we” thing. It’s going to save a life somewhere. Please donate.”
More American Red Cross blood drives and the donation Rapid Pass can be found by visiting www.redcross.org/give-blood.html.