‘Crisis heroes’ thanked for keeping blood drives going during pandemic

Even in the teeth of COVID, donations down only 4%.

Continuing to give the gift of life during a worldwide pandemic is no small thing.

As the pandemic turned the world upside down, among those affected: The Community Blood Center (CBC).

The early impact of the pandemic on overall blood collection in the Dayton area was devastating. By the end of June 2020, the CBC had 268 blood drive cancellations representing a loss of some 8,500 units, according to data from the center.

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For months, the center has been honoring businesses and organizations who went on with blood drives or scheduled drives in the teeth of the pandemic.

“Every single one of them had to make hard decisions,” said Mark Pompilio, a spokesman for the blood center. “That’s what we’re trying to honor.”

The center recognizes drive sponsors with “Crisis Hero” awards. In an interview, Pompilio estimated that the center has awarded 68 of those so far.

A recent honoree was the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI). Robin Sutherland, program manager in UDRI’s sustainment technologies transition division, has been recognized for her role in organizing more than one drive during the pandemic.

Sutherland was happy to do what she could, she said in a recent interview. She credits her colleagues with responding to the call.

“Honestly, it’s not a lot of work,” she said.

“Robin has single-handedly kept these drives going, even through the pandemic, and we’re very proud of her for that,” said Sukh Sidhu, executive director of UDRI. “We’re also proud that our employees have continued to donate through the pandemic, when a lot of people have avoided being in any type of medical facility unless they had to be there, especially something the size of a small bus.”

Nearly 18 months after the pandemic first sunk its claws into the nation, Pompilio said the blood center today has a good supply.

“However, supply of type O-negative has now dropped to a 4-day supply,” he noted on Friday. “That is a concern, so we will be emphasizing O-neg in our recruitment.”

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The concern was heavy when the pandemic first descended. Pompilio remembers well when the first one or two blood drive sponsors canceled events in early- to mid-March 2020.

“That kind of was very foreboding,” he recalled.

Then the dominoes started falling, as he put it. By end of June 2020, when nearly 270 drives had been cancelled, Pompilio was struck the numbers.

“I had never seen anything like that,” he said.

But donors and blood drive sponsors helped the center recover during the second half of 2020, Pompilio said.

One early pioneer was a hospital in Richmond, Ind. — Reid Hospital.

A total of 53,819 people registered to donate at 1,214 mobile blood drives in 2020. Thanks to that support, the overall collection — at the Dayton CBC and via mobile blood drives — for 2020 was down only about 4%.

“Incredibly, there were 8,050 first-time donors in 2020 (6,743 at mobile blood drives), an increase from the previous year by nearly 7,000 donors,” Pompilio said.

Shelby and Darke counties manufacturers really stepped up, he said. Airstream/Thor Industries in Jackson Center has been responsive, holding five blood drives during the pandemic. “They have been a great corporate partners.”

Climate technologies company Emerson’s efforts, in Sidney and elsewhere, also was noteworthy, with some 14 drives from June 2020 to present.

Automaker Honda also had 14 blood drives. Midmark, a producer of veterinary products in Versailles, has also been a reliable drive sponsor.

Said Pompilio: “Manufacturing has been a bread-and-butter supporter.”

The blood center is a regional nonprofit blood bank serving 15 counties and 23 hospitals in Ohio and Indiana.

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