Volunteers step up for blood drive during shortage

Convalescent plasma uses blood from people who have recovered from an illness to help others recover, according to the Food and Drug …

atrubia@ricentral.com

NORTH KINGSTOWN – Last week, Rep. Julie Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter) sponsored a blood drive for the Rhode Island Blood Center. The blood drive, which took place last Wednesday at the Cold Spring Community Center, saw close to 30 people donating blood at the event. All COVID-19 protocols and guidelines were followed during the five-hour blood drive to ensure participants were protected.

Casimiro said the amount of donations surpassed the number the Rhode Island Blood Center was initially hoping for.

“They wanted 25 appointments, they got 30,” Casimiro said. “North Kingstown really stepped up.”

Everyone who donated blood also received a $5 gift card to Dave’s Marketplace.

Casimiro went on to say that the blood drive represented an opportunity for the community to come together for a beneficial cause, especially during turbulent times.

“With the political divide in our lives right now and the effects of COVID-19 in our community, I thought it was time we came together as a community to do something that would benefit our community,” Casimiro said. “The blood drive seemed like the perfect event.”

She also said that there was currently a “tremendous need” for blood donations.

“There is a tremendous need right now and everyone needs to know it is safe to give,” she continued. “When I initially met with the RIBC, they told me of the need right here in our community. So it made sense to partner with them at this time”.

Heather Robenhymer, of RIBC, was on hand at the blood drive, along with volunteers and staff members from the center.

Robenhymer, a North Kingstown resident, said that the pandemic had taken a “major toll” on blood donations.

“The need for blood donations is greater now than ever before,” she said. “The pandemic has taken a major toll on the community blood supply both locally and nationally.”

“Donating blood is something you can safely do that has a direct and positive impact on people’s lives right now,” she continued. “The community blood supply is for all of us–our friends, family, neighbors–and it’s going to take a community response to make sure it’s available to everyone who needs it.”

The RIBC was founded in 1979 as a nonprofit community blood center and, for over 40 years, has been the primary supplier of blood and blood products to patients being cared for in hospitals throughout Rhode Island and in neighboring states.

“Our mission is to help save lives by ensuring a safe, plentiful and cost-effective blood supply,” the RIBC said on its website. “RIBC is much more than just a blood collection organization or blood bank.”

Along with blood collection, RIBC also registers people for the National Marrow Donor Program and collects stem cells of donors who match recipients needing bone marrow transplants at their Providence Center, among other services like providing therapeutic treatments for patients in local hospitals.

Currently, RIBC is working towards increasing the supply of convalescent plasma by collecting donations from people who have recovered from COVID-19. Convalescent plasma uses blood from people who have recovered from an illness to help others recover, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Because you fought the infection, your plasma now contains COVID-19 antibodies,” the FDA said. “These antibodies provided one way for your immune system to fight the virus when you were sick, so your plasma may be able to be used to help others fight off the disease.”

For more information, visit https://www.ribc.org.