Jane Tessmann has been donating blood for a decade as a way to help others. The Tomah resident was among 68 people who donated blood during a Versiti BloodCenter of Wisconsin and Tomah Health blood drive held Nov. 17 & 18 at Tomah’s Recreation Park. “My niece got sick and we did not know what she was sick from and she needed blood and that was kind of the turning point for me. I thought if I could help somebody here I would,” Tessmann said. Fast-forward 10 years, and Jane is still donating blood to help others. “I love it that this blood stays in our area and I feel it’s just a little something that I can do for this wonderful area.”
Versiti is the sole supplier of blood to nearly 50 hospitals in Wisconsin including Tomah Health. “I tell people to come to the Versiti drives because I like it that this blood stays for our local hospital,” Jane added.
“Collecting and maintaining a stable blood supply has been a challenge since the beginning of COVID,” Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin account representative Emalea Cogdill said. Despite the challenge, 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 68 people donated during the two-day drive Nov. 17 & 18, which collected blood products that will save 202 lives.
To maintain a three-day supply of lifesaving blood, Versiti needs on average 10,500 donors per week across the organization. “Only 5% of the U.S. population actually donates blood so we need every donor to come out whenever they are eligible considering that blood drives are the only way that we can collect products to be given to patients,” Cogdill explained. “Blood usage has increased by 10% this year alone, so while we are seeing a decline in donors nationwide, the drives at Tomah Health continue to grow, but with the increase in blood use, we need donors to continue to come out.”
For people who may be a bit fearful of needles or have never donated before, Tessmann has a simple answer. “I tell people to go and give it a try. I think it is very important because what amazes me is how often people need blood, not just for something terrible like an accident, but it could be for any reason. I think it would be terrible if it was my family member and they needed blood and there was none available,” Tessmann said.
Tomah Health held six drives at Recreation Park this year due to continued COVID visitor restrictions at the hospital. “We have been very appreciative of the Tomah Parks & Recreation Dept. for its use of the facilities for our drives,” Tomah Health marketing director Eric Prise said. He added that six drives have been planned for 2022 with the next drive scheduled Jan. 19 & 20.