Staff from Coffee Memorial Blood Center will be back in Dumas on Wednesday, November 25, in the gym area of the Moore County YMCA on Maddox Avenue from noon until 6:15 pm collecting donations of blood to help save the lives of people across the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles. According to Kasey Mader of Coffee Memorial, the bad weather at the end of October forced the cancellation of all the drives for a week, throwing the Texas Panhandle into a blood emergency. That emergency has now ended, but the center needs to build up stocks of blood for the holidays, when demand inevitably increases and donations tend to drop off as people busy themselves with holiday activities. How the COVID crisis will affect the holiday blood supply is also an unknown factor that Mader says increases the urgency of building supplies.
Walk-ins are welcome at the drive, but Coffee Memorial staff prefer that people make an appointment beforehand. You can make an appointment on the Coffee Memorial website or call 806-358-4563.
Those who donate at this drive will receive a complimentary Cinergy movie pass, a pecan pie, a Willy Wonka chocolate bar, a chance to win a $250 Visa gift card, and two t-shirts. One of the shirts will be a "Blaze Coffee Accident Awareness Month" t-shirt.
This blood drive is in memory of Blaze Coffee, a victim of a heavy equipment accident in Amarillo in 2009 who was kept alive for 28 days in part by numerous transfusions of blood and other blood products. He eventually died of his injuries, but his family was so grateful for the extra time they had with him that they have partnered with Coffee Memorial for blood drives in his honor. "With generous support from our friends, family, and area businesses, the Blaze Coffee Memorial Drives have grown so much that we are now able to sponsor an entire month for Coffee Memorial," according to a statement from the family. November is also Blaze Coffee Accident Awareness Month honoring physicians, EMTs and paramedics, pilots, nurses, dispatchers, and blood donors, according to information from the Coffee Memorial website.
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. 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. Masks are required for everyone throughout the donation process.
Recently, 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.