LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, TEXAS —
One pint of blood donated at the Lackland Blood Donor Center can be in the Southwest Asia war zones within 14 days and save up to two lives.
"Our primary mission is to save lives in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Capt. Kathryn Shaw, chief of Lackland Blood Donor Center. "We provide over 55 percent of the Air Force blood that goes overseas and 15 percent of all the blood collected by the Department of Defense out of 20 donor centers."
In addition the center, which has the largest quota for all blood products in the DoD, supplies blood to patients at Wilford Hall Medical Center.
The LBDC collects an estimated 18,500 units of blood a year. About 62 percent of that blood is donated by basic military trainees on a voluntary basis.
"I am donating blood today because our troops in Iraq need medical help and this is one way to help them," said Trainee Ashley Cook, 326th Training Squadron.
Trainee Cook, a first time donor, said once she was informed of the need and learned the actual donation takes 10 minutes and the whole process about 45 minutes she was happy to assist and will continue to do so.
"BMT is critical to our mission," said Ernie Astorga, LBDC recruiter. "Our quotas have been steady and rising. Pre-war we were shipping 49 products overseas. Now we are easily shipping 300 a week."
When blood is donated, it is generally separated into two lifesaving components - plasma and red blood cells. These blood products cannot be stored indefinitely, so there is a constant need for donations.
The shelf life for red blood cells is 42 days. Plasma, which can be frozen, has an expiration date of one year.
The demand for AB donors as universal plasma donors is at an all-time high. Recently, the AB quota for the LBDC climbed almost 40 percent.
Fortunately, five months ago the center received approval to use an apheresis machine to withdraw plasma from donors. The process doubles the plasma units.
The apheresis machine also collects platelets. Through the process one donor can contribute the equivalent of what it would take six whole blood donors to contribute. The platelets, which have a shelf life of seven days, are sent to Wilford Hall.
The process takes approximately an hour to an hour and a half. Donors are kept comfortable in a special room where they are allowed to watch television.
"I really feel like I'm helping out. It's a good thing, " said Trainee Matthew Dieckhoff from the 323rd TRS.
"It's kinda crazy. We're here donating blood and it's going over there, but I like the fact that we're helping the troops out," he added.
Donors must be healthy, at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and must not have not donated any blood within 56 days.
For more information, call Mr. Astorga at 292-8145 or go to the Armed Services Blood Program Web site at www.militaryblood.dod.mil/.