By Mark Walker
Every two seconds, someone in America requires an infusion of blood. Maintaining supplies necessary to meet that demand is increasingly challenging as the COVID-19 epidemic has resulted in many facilities that hosted blood drives being shuttered.
Stepping into that breach in the Puget Sound region and throughout the state is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has made its facilities available for blood draws.
Church member Christie Merrill, who also serves on the Red Cross King County board of directors, has been instrumental in helping establish the draw sites at LDS churches. “It’s important to help save lives,” Merrill said.
“Anyone who can should give blood and bring a buddy with them to also donate.”Christie Merrill, King County Board Member
The Red Cross supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood stock, and needs an average of about 13,000 donations a day to meet that demand. Roughly seven million Americans donate blood annually.
The Red Cross likes to keep a five-day supply of blood at all times, but has seen that fall to just a two-day supply during the COVID pandemic.
“It has really made it difficult for us to be able to collect blood the way we normally do,” Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern recently said.
Merrill saw the increasing pressure on blood drives, approached church leaders and got the go-ahead to ask individual churches to sponsor blood draws.
Last year alone, LDS churches in the region conducted 105 drives resulting in 3,508 units of blood being collected. A unit of blood is roughly one pint.
So far in 2021, LDS churches have conducted more drives aiming toward a goal of at least 45 and collecting 1,545 units of blood. In recognition of her efforts, Merrill and the LDS church were saluted last week by McGovern with a Red Cross COVID-19 Outstanding Service Award.
The next LDS-hosted draw is set for Feb. 10 in Lakewood, Pierce County, with another six set around the state in March.
Giving blood takes about 45 minutes and can help save as many as three lives.
Merrill helps turn out the local community as well as church members to give blood. Donors must be at least 18. Parental permission is required for 16- and 17-year-olds who want to give blood. Donors must wait at least 56 days before donating again.
Merrill will be in the donation line again soon. “I believe you have to walk the talk,” she said regarding the three blood donations she has done in recent months.