Recent events around the world underscore the need for continued preparedness and vigilance for blood centers. The attack in Nice, France, on July 14, follows a series of deadly attacks in the U.S. and abroad over the past few years, all of which seem to be escalating in recent months.
At one time, conventional wisdom had it that, in the face of major national disasters, blood may not be necessary due to the devastation of the attacks. For example, in the case of the nation’s tragedy on 9-11, hospital operating rooms (ORs) were held open in anticipation of a torrent of victims; blood was sequestered and ready to be shipped. Sadly, the ORs and the blood were not needed.
The face of terrorism is shifting to soft targets: sports arenas, nightclubs, and open air gathering places with large groups of people. From California to Texas, from Florida to New York, terrorism has become a local phenomenon. And at the heart of these tragedies is that now more than ever there are hundreds of maimed and critically injured survivors in addition to those who lose their lives. Blood centers are at the heart of a coordinated rapid response system that mobilizes within minutes after these events.
When these incidents occur, the good citizens of America are moved to donate blood. Over 2,000 potential donors lined the street of our ABC member blood center in Orlando to do their part in saving a life. This gift of so many is met with respect and appreciation. Yet we all know that the blood that is saving the life of the trauma patient in the OR within an hour after the event is the blood that has been on the shelf, not the blood being donated that day. A critical question for our industry, and indeed for our nation, is how to tap into the reservoir of goodwill within everyday Americans to provide a steady stream of donors and a pipeline of life-saving blood products? Just as an athletic team with a strong bench ensures success, blood centers require the infrastructure and the steady state of a generous, donating public to respond to the needs of their communities, especially during times of distress.
Recently the ABC Board set direction for shifting the paradigm of blood donation from episodic good intentions during an emergency to habit grounded in a sense of duty. But how do we accomplish this seismic shift? Is it donor education at the community level? A public health initiative at the government level? Or is it a collective initiative within ABC to blanket the country with a new message, a public relations campaign about the need for “bench strength” on the shelf? We welcome your thoughts.
Christine Zambricki, DNAP, CRNA, FAAN; Chief Executive Officer