American Red Cross seeking donations, volunteers

American Red Cross seeking donations, volunteers
Rhonda Edgerton

The Wooster office of the American Red Cross, located at 244 W. South St., will host blood drives on Wednesday, Aug. 12 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Friday, Aug. 21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Donors must make an appointment and can do so by calling 330-264-9383 or visiting www.redcrossblood.org.

                        

The American Red Cross faces a challenge like never before with COVID-19, but it is adapting and finding new ways to meet the needs of its community.

The Red Cross typically deploys disaster relief for small house fires to major national catastrophes. In addition to blood-donor services, it also provides training and safety courses for individuals and companies. It now also screens blood, platelet and plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies.

“There is a desperate need for convalescent plasma in our current situation,” said Kimberly Kroh, executive director of the Heartland, Stark and Muskingum Lakes region.

Kroh said she hopes people who have recovered from COVID-19 will consider making a blood and plasma donation to possibly help someone else trying to overcome the disease.

“This testing may provide critical insight into whether donors may have possibly been exposed to the coronavirus,” Kroh said. “And like with any blood donation, you could possibly be saving a life.”

An antibody test screens for antibodies in your blood, which are formed when fighting an infection like COVID-19. An antibody test assesses whether your immune system has responded to the infection, not if the virus is currently present. The COVID-19 antibody test is authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and may indicate if the donor’s immune system has produced antibodies to the coronavirus, regardless of whether they developed symptoms.

Kroh said the Red Cross is not testing donors to diagnose illness, referred to as a diagnostic test, and positive antibody test results do not confirm infection or immunity. “A positive antibody test only indicates whether someone might have been exposed to the virus,” she said.

The Red Cross hopes testing for COVID-19 antibodies will provide its valued donors insight into whether they may have been exposed to the coronavirus. It recognizes individuals and public health organizations require more information about COVID-19, and as an organization dedicated to helping others, the Red Cross is fortunate to be able to step up to help during this pandemic, according to Kroh.

“All blood, platelet and plasma donations will be tested for COVID-19 antibodies, which includes those who give at mobile blood drives, as well as donation centers,” Kroh said.

Historically, convalescent plasma has been used as a potentially life-saving treatment when new diseases or infections develop quickly and no treatments or vaccines are available yet.

The Red Cross has been asked by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to help identify prospective COVID-19 convalescent plasma donors and manage the distribution of these products to hospitals treating patients in need. This new program will allow for efficient distribution of convalescent plasma to wherever it’s needed most across the country.

“The plasma donation for COVID-19 is a different process than just the usual blood donation someone might have made in their past,” Kroh said.

During a plasma donation, blood is drawn from an arm and sent through a high-tech machine that collects your plasma and then safely and comfortably returns your red cells back to you, along with some saline. Because of this process, donating plasma does take longer than a regular blood donation. Eligible donors may give convalescent plasma every 28 days.

The American Red Cross is largely a volunteer organization, and Kroh said volunteers are needed now more than ever.

“We’re coming up on hurricane season,” Kroh said. “Can you imagine what our response to a major hurricane would have to be now? We’d need scores of more volunteers. Shelters would need to be spaced out to allow for social distancing, and there would be a desperate need for more nurses to assess patients.”

There are currently approximately 400 volunteers serving the seven-county area, Kroh said.

Anyone interested in volunteering with the Wooster American Red Cross office should call Kroh at 330-323-6054.

If you want to donate blood, log on to www.redcrossblood.org to find a drive near you.

“One thing that’s different is that donors now must have a prior appointment to donate; no longer can you just show up at a drive and donate,” Kroh said. “This is just because we now have to be able to plan ahead more than ever so we can meet the social distancing and additional sanitization requirements.”

The Wooster office of the American Red Cross is located at 244 W. South St. The phone number is 330-264-9383.

Here are some upcoming blood drives in the area: Tuesday, Aug. 18 from 2:30-7 p.m. at St. Peter Lutheran Church, 9451 Ashland Road, Wooster; and Friday, Aug. 21 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at American Red Cross Wayne County.


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