The Lifeblood of a Community - The Bend Magazine

The Lifeblood of a Community

The organization that’s saving countless Coastal Bend lives with blood and plasma donations

By: Alexis Harborth

Every 2 seconds, someone is in need of a blood transfusion, and the Coastal Bend Blood Center’s (CBBC) crucial, life-saving mission is supplying blood and related services. They had been fulfilling that mission for 51 years, and just when they thought they’d seen it all, along came the 2020 pandemic. 

Ashley Ramirez, marketing and public relations director for the CBBC, described some of the immediate effects that the pandemic created. “High schools account for 30 percent of our blood supply,” Ramirez says. “When the high schools were not open, it was a triple whammy: businesses were closed, schools were closed, people were home, so we weren’t able to have blood drives. On  a normal day, we have six blood donation buses at locations because we serve 19 medical facilities in 10 counties.”

The CBBC grappled with how to collect during the unprecedented time. It was a time-sensitive situation, as the health landscape of the Coastal Bend changed.” On top of that decline, there was a major increase of patients at the hospital,” says Ramirez.

There is always a need for blood, and the rapidly changing times also created a new, special need – convalescent plasma from COVID-19 survivors. When someone recovers from the coronavirus, their convalescent plasma can contain antibodies, which can be given to patients to help them fight COVID-19. Spreading awareness for it was a team effort. The CBBC banded together with its partners to spread awareness and save lives. Thomas J. Henry, Attorney at Law, stepped forward to support this need.

“The insurgence of COVID-19 affected our nation tremendously, leaving local hospitals in dismay due to a shortage of beds, supplies and blood,” says Henry. “I was honored to partner with the CBBC and call on the community, especially those who had recovered from COVID-19, to donate blood and convalescent plasma in support of Corpus Christi-area hospitals.”

Although 2020 is in the rearview mirror, this year shares many similarities to the last. In 2021, the CBBC plans to continue finding ways to fulfill its mission to supply blood, plasma, and services to medical facilities. Education is also always a high priority.

“There is often a misconception that blood can be stored indefinitely until it’s needed. I wish that were the case,” Ramirez says. “Blood has a shelf life. Whole blood is only good for 42 days.” 

That’s why our community is critical to helping maintain the supply. Fortunately, this monumental task is done in a fun and easy way.

“Blood collection is actually very simple, and we make it as comfortable as possible. It takes half an hour and we give blankets and pillows, and there’s TVs to watch shows. Afterwards there’s refreshments and we always have some fun gifts.”

Although the holiday season is over, this is a major way to give back year-round. “Every one donation, you save multiple lives; anywhere from 3 to 5 lives,” said Ramirez. “The best gift you can give is life.”