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Kathie Fuston gives blood for the Coffee Memorial Blood Center at the 2019 Moore County Hospital District Health Fair.  Procedures for donating blood have now been changed to reflect the COVID health crisis.  Masks and social distancing are now required at all blood drives.

Coffee Memorial Blood Center in Amarillo will be conducting two blood drives in Dumas next week.  The first one will be on August 26 from 12:00 to 7:00 pm in the Moore County Community Building.  The following day the blood mobile will be in the Amarillo College Moore County Campus (ACMCC) parking lot from 11:00 am to 3:30 pm, according to Ashley Mader of ACMCC.  Anyone eligible to give blood can donate at either drive.  The one in the ACMCC parking lot is not just for AC students.  People can walk in, but Coffee Memorial prefers that people make an appointment beforehand.  People can make appointments on the Coffee Memorial website or call 806-358-4563.  Donors will receive a Boots & Badges t-shirt, a Clint & Sons beef stick, and a $10 bonus game card to Cinergy, among other things.

Coffee Memorial is the primary source of blood and blood products for the 31 counties and 29 medical facilities of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles.  According to Suzanne Talley, executive director of Coffee Memorial, the organization needs to draw 125 units per day to meet demand.  A quarter of that comes from people making donations at Coffee Memorial's Amarillo headquarters at 7500 Wallace Boulevard.  The rest comes from mobile drives in Dumas and other communities across the area.

The COVID crisis hit Coffee Memorial hard for a time.  Several large-scale drives were cancelled, forcing the organization to rely more heavily on drives in smaller communities.  "We have been able to successfully go into our smaller communities, and it has been an amazing blessing to us and the patients we serve," she said.  Talley says the COVID crisis has forced changes on the way drives are conducted.  She says Coffee Memorial follows all the Centers for Disease Control guidelines to insure both staff and donors remain safe from the virus throughout the donation process.  She adds that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is a respiratory virus.  It is not transmitted by blood.  Neither donors nor patients receiving blood need to worry about contracting the virus, at least not from the blood or the process of donating.  She says donors are not tested for the virus.

On Wednesday, the Texas Medical Association issued a press release encouraging patients who had survived COVID-19 to donate blood plasma to be used to treat other COVID patients.  Recovered patients produce antibodies that stay in the plasma that some health officials feel may be beneficial to active COVID patients when given in the form of a transfusion.  Though the use of so-called convalescent plasma in this way has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, "it has authorized its use under an investigational drug application."  The press release adds that "convalescent plasma carries few side-effect risks and has a long history of effectiveness against other diseases."

Coffee Memorial has begun what it calls an "aggressive campaign" to recruit convalescent plasma from recovered COVID patients to treat active cases in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles.  According to the Coffee Memorial website, demand for the plasma in the area is now greater than supply.  Dr. John Armitage, president and CEO of Oklahoma Blood Institute, which works with Coffee Memorial, said, "The need is here and even a brief delay in getting this plasma might cost a life or prolong the illness for a coronavirus victim."  In addition to possibly helping up to four active COVID patients, hose donating plasma are entered for a chance to win $1000.  

Plasma donors must have had a positive COVID-19 test result, be symptom-free for 14 days, and be at least seven days past their last plasma donation.  Donors can call the convalescent plasma hotline at 888-308-3924 or visit thegiftoflife.org

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