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Parkland is one of the largest users of blood products in the area


Irving, Texas. January 10, 2018

Every 56 days, Petra Townsend can be found at Carter BloodCare’s Hulen Donor Center in Fort Worth doing the same thing she’s done for decades – donating whole blood. She’s so committed to her donation schedule that one could nearly set their calendar to it.

Donating blood, according to the purchasing specialist at Parkland Health & Hospital System, is important because she knows she’s saving lives.

“It’s the least I can do to contribute to the healthcare professionals as they work each day in our emergency rooms and hospital settings,” Townsend said, noting that her eldest daughter is a registered nurse at USMD Hospital in Arlington. “I know she and my other daughter are proud of me for what I can do to contribute.”

And contribute she has.

Since the 1970’s Townsend has donated more than eight gallons of blood and no doubt saved countless lives.

It’s easy to comprehend the urgent need for blood when a patient is critically injured and seconds can mean the difference between life and death. But at Parkland Memorial Hospital, the demand for blood and blood products reaches beyond caring for patients in its Rees-Jones Trauma Center.

January is National Blood Donor Month and nationwide most blood centers see a decrease in collections during the winter due to illness and/or weather-related incidents. The challenge is that when high schools are not in session, collection centers are not able to host those blood drives. The blood collected from high school drives contributes as much as 25 percent to the annual collections. That includes the donations made at those drives from non-students such as faculty and administration.

On any given day, patients receive life-saving transfusions for conditions such as chronic gastrointestinal bleeding or sickle cell disease, a severe hereditary form of anemia in which there are not enough healthy red blood cells to adequately deliver oxygen throughout the body. Blood and blood products may also be used during surgical cases, labor and delivery, dialysis or for oncology patients, among others. As a result, Parkland is one of the largest users of blood products in the area.

In fiscal year 2017, the total transfused blood products used at Parkland was 27,328 units, with the vast majority, 21,713 units or 79 percent, of those being red blood cells. The remainder was platelets, cryoprecipitate (clotting proteins to help control bleeding) and plasma, according to Terri Thibodeau, Parkland’s Lab Manager of Transfusion Services.

These products are all used in rapidly bleeding patients – be it from trauma, complicated pregnancy or other acute bleeds. Platelets, which are tiny blood cells that form clots to stop bleeding, are used predominately in oncology. 
In FY 17, blood products were used in the following departments at Parkland:

  • Massive Transfusion Protocol, trauma or severe bleeds, 3,062 units, 11 percent
  • Apheresis, 3,278 units, 12 percent 
  • Labor & Delivery, 2,028 units, 8 percent 
  • Other areas such as oncology, dialysis, etc., 18,908 units or 69 percent

“It is critical that we always have a large supply of O-negative and AB plasma,” said Thibodeau, adding that the shelf life of blood is 42 days. “Those two are considered ‘universal donors,’ meaning that it’s safe to transfuse before we obtain a blood type on a patient.”

For those cases when seconds do count, Parkland stores a supply of universal donor blood in the Rees-Jones Trauma Center for patients who need immediate blood products.

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