It is often said that families are “connected by blood.” Communities are too.
On Sept. 24, a Ride the Ducks tour vehicle in Seattle collided with a charter bus going over the Aurora Bridge carrying students, resulting in five fatalities, 11 patients with serious injuries, and more than 20 others admitted to eight area hospitals. One week later, 350 miles away, shootings at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore. resulted in 10 deaths, with nine others hospitalized in critical condition.
What connects these two events? Both became national news stories. Emergency responders, healthcare providers, and ordinary citizens came together to respond to heart-wrenching tragedy. In local communities, there was a massive public outpouring of compassion and support. The hospitals in both places depend on Bloodworks Northwest (BloodworksNW) for their blood supply.
Hundreds of people immediately went to blood centers in the Seattle area and in Eugene, Ore. to help their communities respond. The news stories and hundreds of posts on social media mentioned the importance of the community blood supply in responding to tragedy. After the emergency needs were addressed, donors stepped forward to replace what was used, to prepare for whatever came next, and to help their communities heal.
The events put extraordinary demands on the staff at BloodworksNW in Washington and Lane Blood Center. Sometimes, online scheduling and telephone lines could not keep up with the number of donors trying to contact the centers. Donors stood in long lines, waiting patiently for hours to donate, and special mobile drives were held. Local businesses brought food. Our couriers, testing, and processing staff worked at full capacity. Administrative staff pitched in to help greet donors, and to help wherever and wherever possible. The community and staff went above and beyond.
Media coverage highlighted the vital role blood centers play daily – ready and able to respond instantly when a tragedy occurs. We perform this vital role not just when emergencies happen, but on every day of the year. When tragedies like these occur, they test the people and capacity of community-based blood organizations to perform our foundational role in healthcare. We did. Afterwards, we are called upon to restock our shelves, knowing that patient needs continue and that another disaster can happen tomorrow.
Our ability to respond immediately when they do is made possible by generous blood donors and volunteers, and communities that care. Sometimes, blood centers and those we support might take all this for granted.
Over just one week, we experienced two tragedies, in two communities. This tragic week, and every week, the community is depending on us to help save lives. What we do matters.
Jim AuBuchon, MD; President & CEO Bloodworks Northwest; JimA@bloodworksnw.org