Petty Officer 3rd Class Shailynn Galvin, of Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) Georgia, has donated blood at outside community blood drives, but up until Tuesday had never donated at Fort Gordon’s Kendrick Memorial Blood Center. So when the 21-year-old heard her command was sponsoring a blood drive at KMBC, she didn’t hesitate to donate.
“I came out because I heard that this is a direct support to our troops, and I don’t know about you, but if I was in need of blood, I would hope that they have it,” Galvin said.
Galvin was one of more than 150 Fort Gordon Navy personnel who donated lifesaving blood to the Armed Services Blood Program on Tuesday and Wednesday, which as Galvin learned, goes directly to military members and their families.
Erin Longacre, Fort Gordon ASBP blood donor recruiter, said organized blood drives – such as the Navy’s – are what keep the program going. As the official blood collection and transfusion program for the U.S. military, the ASBP’s mission is to “provide quality blood products and services in both peace and war.”
“A big part of our mission is to maintain readiness for our special operations’ teams, our forward-medical assets need blood to help save lives far forward, and in some cases, injured troops can receive blood at the point of injury, so we are able to get blood products to those that need it,” Longacre explained.
The ASBP also supplies blood to military hospitals stateside, where service members’ families and retirees may be on the receiving end of donations.
Blood that is donated at KMBC is processed immediately and leaves the center on the third day of collection, giving it the longest shelf life possible.
Unlike its civilian center counterparts, KMBC is restricted to soliciting on federal property, which can pose a challenge and is one of the reasons staff travels to other installations to conduct blood drives. Longacre said the Fort Gordon team travels to Fort Jackson and Parris Island (both in South Carolina) where they set up mobile sites to collect blood donations.
All blood types are needed, but O negative is the most sought after because it is “universal,” meaning it can be given to anyone, unlike B negative, which is extremely rare – and all the more reason Galvin was eager to donate. Galvin said she was surprised to learn when she enlisted that she is part of less than 2 percent of the population that has B negative blood.
“It’s needed on a regular basis, so that’s also why I came,” she said.
Petty Officer 1st Class Anastasia Smith, NIOC-Georgia, co-organized the Navy blood drive. A repeat donor herself, Smith said her goal was to get as many donors as possible through the doors. Her mission was successful.
“We had so much support that towards the end of the day we got over capacity,” Longacre said.
As a result, the drive was extended an extra day – something Longacre would much rather see happen versus there being a shortage of donors – especially at a time when donations are lower than normal due to the pandemic.
“The need is there,” Longacre said. “Whenever there is a crisis that keeps people away from blood drives, we always experience a great need.”
The actual donation process only takes 10-15 minutes, but Longacre said to prepare for an hour from start to finish due to the prescreening and break time afterwards.
KMBC is currently unable to accept walk-in donations due to an upcoming move. The clinic will be moving into a brand new building on Oct. 1, at which time it will reopen for walk-ins and appointments. The new location is directly across the parking lot from its current location.
“The new facility is going to have more storage capability, more processing capability, more collecting capability – everything is going to be better over there – and that will better help us to provide the blood that we need to both downrange and here at home,” Longacre said.
In the meantime, Galvin hopes the community – particularly would-be first time donors – give donating blood some serious consideration.
“Honestly, the purpose is greater than the process, so if you know what you’re doing it for, again, that’s the purpose,” Galvin said. “And it’s more important than the process that you have to go through.
Before you donate
Blood donors must weigh at least 116 pounds and can donate every 56 days. Prepare by eating a good, iron-rich meal the day before donating blood. Hydrate before and after donating, especially if it is hot outside. People can donate blood regardless of vaccination status. However, anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 must wait at least 14 days before they can donate blood.”