UT, provide more blood donation opportunities

Hillary Ma, Columnist

According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds someone is in need of blood or platelets in the U.S. 

Without a doubt, the country is currently in dire need of blood. Hurricane season is battering Central Texas with bodily injuries. The pandemic is causing a statewide shortage of blood and, most importantly, blood donations from citizens are decreasing day by day. 

On campus, the struggle for blood donation opportunities stems from two main problems: lack of University Health Services hosted blood drives and meticulous coordination requirements. UT must increase opportunities for blood donation drives on campus to help serve the greater Austin community. 

“Across the nation, and within Central Texas, we’re experiencing a long term sustained blood donation shortage,” said Nick Canedo, vice president of community engagement at We Are Blood.

We Are Blood is a nonprofit organization  that aims to serve Central Texas hospitals by hosting blood drives across Austin. They also have multiple outreach programs with student-led organizations at UT to host mobile blood drives. 

“We have been issuing statements to the community and getting the word out to try and encourage them to donate blood at blood work donor centers,” Canedo said. “There are still active mobile drives …  but we are in dire need of blood donations right now. Less mobile blood drives means less donations available for patients.”  

“UHS does not host blood drives, but we do serve as the official approver of student group hosted blood drives on campus,” said Laura Kinch, assistant director of communication and marketing at UHS, in an email. 

The Blood Brigade is a student group that empowers students to donate blood. Tasha Anslyn, neuroscience and speech-language pathology senior and co-founder of The Blood Brigade, explained the logistics of hosting a student-run blood drive. 

“You have to reserve with the blood bank, coordinate with the University, coordinate with other student orgs that we’re co-hosting (with) and make sure that we complete all of the required University paperwork,” Anslyn said. “All of that coordination takes a lot of preparation in advance of the actual drive itself.” 

On top of all those obstacles, COVID-19 precautions are complicating The Blood Brigade’s attempts to ensure the safety of both the staff members and donors. Concerns such as social distancing measures, COVID-19, canceled appointments and canceled blood drives have devastated the entire national blood supply despite the low risk of catching or spreading COVID-19 through blood. 

“This specific time of year, especially in Texas, is particularly vulnerable,” Anslyn said. “When hurricane season hits the southeast U.S., bodily injuries are a common consequence. Emergency blood transfusions are needed. And in order to support that, we have to have a stable supply of blood. And right now, we’re really just not at that point to be able to definitely support any sort of further damage caused by natural disasters.” 

Despite complications due to the pandemic, the problem still stands within our community: we need blood to save lives. Enabling more facilities on campus for blood donations can aid the feasibility and accessibility for students to actively participate in these donations while also relieving some of the stress placed on current organizations. 

UHS needs to create more avenues for students, staff and all of Austin to serve our community by donating blood. 

“Cancer patients, trauma patients or individuals undergoing surgery are the most vulnerable neighbors around us,” Anslyn said. “They really rely on our support, and it takes a whole community to bring attention to that.”

Ma is a Journalism and Chinese junior from The Woodlands, Texas.