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NEWS | Sept. 8, 2022

Blood drive scheduled to support Blood Cancer Awareness Month

By Lori A. Bultman 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

This month, you can support those with blood cancers by participating in a blood drive coordinated by the Joint Base San Antonio Exceptional Family Member Program.  

In 2010, Congress designated September as National Blood Cancer Awareness Month and encouraged participation in voluntary activities to support blood cancer research and education. 

At the time, there were more than 900,000 Americans afflicted with some kind of blood cancer, according to the resolution. Current statistics put that number at around 1.3 million. 

“Blood cancers are a group of diseases that affect the different types of cells that make up blood. This includes leukemias, lymphomas, and myeloma, among others,” said Dr. (Maj.) Kristen Romanelli, pediatric hematologist oncologist with the Defense Health Agency at Brooke Army Medical Center at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. 

“These cells are normally made inside the bone marrow,” she said. “The bone marrow is constantly producing new cells, and when mistakes are made in this process, blood cancers can develop and take over the body.”  

Romanelli emphasized that cancer patients rely on blood donations to survive and fight their cancers. 

“Military blood drives support active-duty service members, retirees and dependents who are battling cancers and who are under treatment for other medical conditions,” she said. “Blood donated in military blood drives stays within the military health system and is our greatest supply of blood donations for those who serve or have served our country, including those deployed.” 

The blood donated at the EFMP-sponsored drive Sept. 12-16 will stay within JBSA and will help military-affiliated families, according to Sally Gonzales, JBSA EFMP Coordinator. 

Appointments are required to participate and may be made at using the sponsor code FSHEFMP. Locations will include the Akeroyd Blood Donation Center, 1240 Harney Road, Sept. 12-14, and 16; and at the M&FRC, building 2797, JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. 

Most adults are eligible to participate but there are some restrictions for those on certain medications, under treatment for blood-borne infections such as malaria or HIV, or those who have traveled to certain countries, Romanelli said. “You can obtain eligibility criteria when making your appointment to donate.” 

As a healthcare professional, Romanelli appreciates the Exceptional Family Member Program’s effort to assist military-connected patients in need.  

“EFMP is an exceptional program that helps military families receive the care they need, when and where they need it,” she said. “It is only natural that they support our active-duty service members and their dependents in every way they can.”