Record numbers turn out for blood drives for Texas

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Kim Kloeppel, left, relaxes with a newspaper while giving blood, as mobile operations supervisor Robert Sanchez, center, prepares Devon Fisher-Chavez for a blood donation on Tuesday. (GREG SORBER/JOURNAL)

New Mexico may be a poor state, but people here are generous and they are stepping up in record numbers to donate blood for the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

That’s especially important because the flooding that has devastated the Houston area has halted mobile blood drives and shut down blood donation centers there, said Aussy Levi, senior manager of donor recruitment at the United Blood Services Albuquerque center.

The center on Tuesday had people backed up in the sitting area waiting for those in the donation chairs to cycle through.

A mobile blood drive at Yale and Lomas NE also drew a steady stream of people Tuesday. The blood drive was organized by the University of New Mexico ROTC program.

“We want the people in Houston to know the American people are behind them,” said Master Sgt. Eugene Broadus III while giving blood inside the donation bus.

Nearly 20 cadets in the ROTC program at the university donated blood. “They talked about the disaster in Houston, and the importance of answering the call. Even though they can’t go to Texas, they can contribute here and make a difference, and they feel good about helping.”

Sitting on an adjacent donation chair was Kim Kloeppel, UNM’s student affairs chief operations officer. “I donate blood regularly, but when I got a call saying they were needing extra blood because of the hurricane I knew I had to come out and donate today.”

This donation, she said, seems a little more urgent in view of the massive scale of devastation in Texas.

Devon Fisher-Chavez, 21, a pre-med student at UNM, said he spends perhaps too much time studying, and knew little about the hurricane and flooding in Houston. “I kind of live under a rock, but I was out walking around today to pay some bills and saw it (mobile donation bus) and just wanted to do something good for others. It is important to give blood.”

Mobile blood drives and blood centers throughout New Mexico take in collectively about 300 units, or pints, of blood daily, which is the minimum required to service hospitals, said Levi.

On Monday, the blood center in Albuquerque by itself saw a 17 percent increase in donations, and on Tuesday a 35 percent increase, she said. Statewide, the other blood centers in Rio Rancho, Santa Fe and Farmington reported an average increase of about 13 percent.

“What’s happening here with the increased donations is great, but I hate that it happens because of a disaster,” and that underscores why blood is continuously in need, she said.

As an example, she noted, a single car accident involving a family of three, all of whom require blood during emergency surgeries, could use 100 units of blood or more. And of course, there are other tragedies, such as the Clovis library shooting on Monday that killed two and sent four others to area hospitals. The condition of those injured has not been released, but the tragedy would be multiplied if they required blood and it wasn’t available.

United Blood Services goal for New Mexico is to collect an extra 1,000 units by the end of next week, most of which will go to Texas.

“I think people want to do something, and if they can’t send food or if they can’t send money, they can donate blood because it’s easy, quick and they feel it makes a difference,” Levi said.

After the blood is tested and processed, “the donors get a text saying their blood is on its way to save a life.”

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Eugene Broadus III, a master sergeant with UNM’s ROTC program, helped organize the Tuesday blood drive on the UNM campus at Lomas and Yale NE. Up to 20 cadets in the ROTC program were among the donors who streamed into the blood donation bus. (GREG SORBER/JOURNAL)

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