Sometimes a health issue calls for a blood transfusion, platelets, or both. And with Austin’s growing population comes an increasing need for both these life-giving substances. We Are Blood is the exclusive blood provider for Central Texas, with the help of two additional centers in Round Rock and south Austin. They provide blood to more than 40 hospitals and medical centers across 10 counties.
I visited the We Are Blood flagship on North Lamar to meet with Amy Cavender, the platelet program manager. I didn’t expect the center to be so massive, but it makes sense considering this organization helps so many people.
Growing Region, Growing Demand
Blood and platelet donations are an incredible contribution that can help save many lives. As the population of Central Texas grows, demand and supply are becoming imbalanced, as many young people are stepping up to replace an older generation of regular donors.
The majority of current donors, Cavender told me, are 60 or older. This older generation grew up during a period when blood donation centers were spreading rapidly. They were educated as children on the importance of donating. In this way, it was part of the collective mindset. Today, the responsibility of educating the public about blood donation falls on smaller groups and collectives.
Part of Cavender’s job is educating the public. She’s happy to speak at events, especially smaller ones where a conversation is possible. In the past, she has spoken at rotary clubs, faith gatherings, and even anime clubs.
Platelets Versus Blood
Whether a blood or platelet transfusion is needed is for a health professional, not me, to explain. But I can explain some of the differences between donating blood versus platelets. The weight requirement for whole blood is a minimum of 115 pounds. For platelets, the minimum is 110 pounds. A longer list of eligibility requirements can be found online.
Whole blood donations can take 45 minutes to an hour from the moment you walk in the front door. Platelet donations take longer, from 70 minutes to two hours. That’s because the blood is processed through a machine to collect only the platelets and then returned to your body. This makes recovery smoother (and is the reason the weight requirement is lower).
The center provides Wi-Fi, music, and movies to keep you entertained during the process. Some people even approach platelet donation as gaining the luxury of quiet, meditative downtime while doing something good for the Austin community.
Platelets are widely needed, but they expire after five days, as opposed to whole blood which lasts up to 42 days. Austin’s blood supply relies on frequent platelet donors to help the patients on the other end. Platelets can be donated more often than whole blood: every 10 days (whole blood is every 56 days).
We Are Blood Local Partners
We Are Blood partners with a number of local and Central Texas businesses to encourage people to donate. Some of these businesses include P. Terry’s, Tacodeli, Torchy’s, Alamo Drafthouse, Franklin Barbecue, and Amy’s Ice Creams. Sometimes these businesses help spread the word, provide discounts, or donate products or experiences as a “thank you” to donors.
Cavender emphasized the importance of maintaining a good relationship with donors. “The fact that they are willing to give of themselves in substantial, powerful ways… I want to make sure they’re taken care of,” she said.
What Can You Do to Help?
Though donating blood is essential and greatly appreciated, it is not the only way to help the cause. Many people, including myself, are not eligible to give blood. But I’m happy to do my part by writing about blood donation and spreading the word.
You can also help spread the word by sharing this article and having discussions with your community. If you are a part of an organization that cares about community service, then invite We Are Blood to speak with your group. Local businesses can partner with this local nonprofit to host fundraisers or offer discounts to donors.
There are also a host of volunteer opportunities. You may prefer to work in community outreach, transportation, or making donors comfortable during blood drives. You can also make a tax deductible financial contribution.
Multiple locations — Website
@theAustinot wants to know:
When was the last time you donated blood or platelets?