By Gordon Williams
The American Red Cross — striving to provide a supply of human blood to match the relentless demand — keeps opening new doors in the search for donors.
That’s why, for two days in early April, Red Cross crews collected blood at Fairchild Air Force Base, just outside of Spokane WA. “It was our first time at Fairchild since 2007,” says Heath Palen-McBee, Red Cross district manager for donor recruitment. “We collected 52 units of blood.” Each unit of collected human blood is around a pint.
Home to the 92nd Air Refueling Wing, Fairchild is the largest military facility in Eastern Washington and an ideal location for a blood drive. It provides access to lots of potential donors — all of them over 17, the minimum age for Red Cross blood donors (or 16 with parental consent). Still, Heath said discussions went on for a year-and-a-half before the blood drive at Fairchild became a reality.
The Red Cross historically has had close ties to the military through its Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program. SAF provides a range of support services to active duty military, retirees, and their families.
One key player is Jason Matheney, who runs the SAF program for the Red Cross Northwest Region (Washington and northern Idaho). “We are very excited to see Red Cross blood drives returning to Fairchild Air Force Base,” Matheney says. “We hope to build on this success with our other military partners, and host blood drives on more installations throughout the region.”
“This two-day blood drive was an important first step,” Heath says. “Now there will be discussions on how often they would like us to be out here, and when we can schedule future drives.”
Heath came to the Red Cross six years ago — hired to broaden Red Cross blood collections in Washington. He says that in joining the Red Cross he welcomed the opportunity to work for a well-known non-profit. More to the point, Heath says he is an “avid blood donor” — and with good reason.
“I have a daughter who is 19 now, who needed blood when she was four days old,” he says. “And both my father and father-in-law were sick and needed blood. I can’t begin to collect enough blood to repay what my family was given.”
Healthy blood, platelet and plasma donors are essential to keep the blood flowing for patients in need. Sign up to give: rcblood.org/appt