Teresa Pierce and Katie Pierce both knew they wanted to help with the local shortage of blood. What they did not know is they both planned to donate blood at the same time. The Tomah mother and daughter were among 90 people that turned out for the two-day Tomah Health / Versiti BloodCenter of Wisconsin drive at Tomah Recreation Park March 23 & 24.
Above: Teresa Pierce, left, and Katie Pierce said they were happy to help support the Tomah Health / Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin drive at Recreation Park March 24.
“This was a first, and not expected,” Teresa said of the two donating blood together. “We were two ships that passed in the night,” she said explaining the unscheduled meeting. “It has been about 20 years since I donated but I knew that the blood supply was really low,” Teresa said of her decision to donate whole blood. “I wanted to get in the last time, but I did not get an appointment in time, so I wanted to make sure I got in this time,” she said. “I gave once last summer,” Katie recalled. “Before then it had been a while. I got an email about the drive and was able to sign up.”
Because of her high hemoglobin count, Katie learned that she could make a double red cell donation, which allows a person to donate two units of red blood cells thereby giving more blood products used by patients. “Last time I came to do a whole blood donation, but they (Versiti staff) said I had the option of a dual red,” Katie said. “I qualified for it so I decided that if I could donate as much without coming to get poked as much that was my preference,” she said. A double red cell donation is similar to a whole blood donation, except a special machine allows the donor to donate two units of red blood cells during one donation while returning plasma and platelets to the donor and saving time.
Both Teresa and Katie said they plan to continue to donate, especially since their donation helps with much needed blood.“When you see some of the things the blood does for people across the state of Wisconsin, and how low the supply is, it’s just really important that people like me, who has not been here for 20 years, figures out a way to get here so we can help in times of trouble,” Teresa said.
Versiti is the sole supplier of blood to nearly 50 hospitals in Wisconsin including Tomah Health.
“There’s absolutely no reason not to (donate),” Katie added. “When they say, ‘it will never happen to you or you’ll never need that blood’, it will happen at some point and I’m happy to give on this end,” she said.
Teresa and Katie also praised the work of Versiti staff. “They walk you through everything and tell you exactly what is going to happen,” Katie explained. “I feel you sometimes need to get out of your own head and realize that this cause is bigger than you and you can do a lot of good for just a little discomfort.”
Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin account representative Emalea Cogdill said Tomah Health blood drives continue to be successful. “The amount of donors that we are seeing at the Tomah Health blood drives has really grown and we are happy to see those numbers have sustained through COVID,” she said. Cogdill said 90 people donated during the two-day drive March 23 & 24, which collected blood products that will save more than 250 lives.
Cogdill described Tomah area residents as loyal donors that see the need for donations and understand how they can give back to their community. “One in seven people entering a hospital are going to need a blood product and someone needs blood every two seconds, so we need to continue to maintain a stable blood supply here in Tomah, across our state and nationwide,” she said.
She added that donations across Versiti’s 5 state area have been very low over the past few weeks and future appointments are also below average. “We are anticipating that we won’t see any relief until after the Easter holiday, so blood drives like the Tomah Health drive this are so important,” she said. “In the coming days, 265 patients at our community hospitals will receive treatment because of the generous donors at the Tomah Health blood drive.”
Tomah Health has scheduled four more two-day drives at Recreation Park this year due to continued COVID visitor restrictions at the hospital. “We truly appreciate the support from the Tomah Parks & Recreation Dept. for use of the facilities at Recreation Park for our drives,” Tomah Health marketing director Eric Prise said. He added that the next drive will be held May 24 & 25.