There is a deficit going on in Landstuhl at this very moment. It doesn’t involve an inflated budget or a trade imbalance. It involves saving the lives of servicemembers.
Donating blood isn’t always on a person’s to-do list, especially during the holidays. Blood, however, does have a shelf life and fresh is best. January marked the beginning of National Volunteer Blood Donor Month.
“Two times of year when we get a critical shortage both here and stateside are during summer and from Thanksgiving until about the middle of January,” said Army Maj. Robert Pell Jr., the U.S. European Command joint blood program officer and chief of blood service at Landstuhl.
“From a supervisor’s perspective, we are always in a deficit,” said Army Capt. Angel Colon, chief of the U.S. Army Europe Blood Donor Center at Landstuhl. “We need it year round. If we were able to get the needed amount all year we wouldn’t need to worry about emergency blood drives.”
Approximately 70 percent of the blood that comes into Europe comes from the continental United States, said Captain Colon. The remaining 30 percent comes from the blood center here.
“Our 30 percent is the freshest, and we use that for the downrange folks,” he said.
Shelf life for blood is between 21-42 days, but with the demand the Iraq conflict has caused, using it up quickly enough hasn’t been an issue.
“We are busier now than we have ever been,” said Major Pell. “Throughout the European Command, we’ve basically supported 15,000 blood requirements during the past 10 months. I have transfused more since the war ended than I did while it was occurring.”
Historically, Landstuhl has averaged 20-40 products transfused per month, said Major Pell. It now is averaging 150-180 per month. With no clear end to the conflict in sight, those numbers are not likely to go down any time soon.
A donor can give nearly a pint of blood every 56 days. To be donor eligible, a person must generally be 17, be in good health, and weigh at least 110 pounds. Most blood banks have no upper age limit, but all donors must pass a simple physical and health history examination before giving blood.
The entire blood donation process only takes about an hour and the body can replenish the fluid lost from donation in 24 hours.
Upcoming blood drives include, Wednesday at Spangdahlem Air Base; Jan. 21 at Kapaun Air Station; and Jan. 27 at Sembach Air Base.
For information, call the donor center at 486-7107 or 486-6497.