An interview with Gerald “Gerry” Cvitanovich, M.D., Coroner of Jefferson Parish and Mickie Wilson-Martin, Donor Recruitment Specialist with Ochsner Blood Bank
As we all try our best to avoid contact with others, the nation’s blood supply is experiencing a severe shortage. During this time of social distancing, the prospect of donating blood may seem risky, but that isn’t the case for everyone.
We interviewed Gerald “Gerry” Cvitanovich, M.D., Coroner of Jefferson Parish, and Mickie Wilson-Martin, Donor Recruitment Specialist for Ochsner Blood Bank, to get the facts straight. Check out our new Q&A, “Blood Donations Now: Your Questions, Expert Answers”, to learn more about the importance of donating blood and how to do so safely. Even if you know you can’t donate, you can still help. Read the interview to find out how!
Q1: Can you share some of the causes for the nation’s shortage of blood donations and supplies at this time?
Dr. Cvitanovich: Some people think that the blood banks are shut down. Other people are afraid to donate because they think they will catch covid-19.
Mickie Wilson-Martin: Many locations that host blood drives are closed. Many potential donors are scared to come out. Ochsner is not in a blood shortage during this time. Thanks to the many donors that have donated during the past few weeks, Ochsner has remained to stay out of a blood crisis.
Q2: What are the greatest risks of not having access to enough blood donations? Which types of patients are most affected?
Dr. Cvitanovich: Many patients are affected by short supply. It could be a trauma patient. It could be a woman with complications of childbirth, or someone’s parent after open-heart surgery. ICU patients need plasma and blood.
Mickie Wilson-Martin: Without sufficient blood supplies, surgeries could be affected, as well as cancer patients, infants and transplant patients.
Q3: Am I allowed to donate during the stay-at-home mandate and is it safe?
Dr. Cvitanovich: Yes – you can still donate. We have had critical shortages since the COVID-19 crisis started.
Mickie Wilson-Martin: Yes, donating blood is considered essential.
Q4: Can I contract COVID-19 by donating?
Dr. Cvitanovich: Very unlikely.
Mickie Wilson-Martin: No, it is completely safe.
Q5: How are blood centers ensuring donor safety?
- They are social distancing and doing extensive patient interviews before bringing the patient in.
- Also, they are sanitizing their donation stations between patients.
- Ochsner Blood Bank is maintaining 6 ft social distancing between donors.
- All Staff members are wearing masks.
- All Donors are given a mask upon arrival, as well as, a new pen to keep and fill out all paperwork.
- The number of donors allowed to donate at one time is limited to maintain social distancing.
- All Donors are given a new stress ball to use for donation and to keep.
- All donor beds are disinfected between donors.
Q6: Who are the best candidates for blood donors?
Dr. Cvitanovich: Most people are eligible to donate. People with all blood types are eligible. Type O is especially valuable because those people are “universal donors”.
Mickie Wilson-Martin: All healthy people who are 17 years of age and older. O donors are always needed. Especially O negative.
Q7: Who should not donate blood? Can you elaborate on specifics for typical counter-indications, such as recent travel or antibiotics, as well as new ones that are COVID-19 related?
Dr. Cvitanovich: Some people with chronic diseases or conditions cannot donate. Some examples are Hepatitis, AIDS, Cancer, and Alcoholism. Also, recent hospitalizations or surgery could preclude someone from donating.
Mickie Wilson-Martin: There are so many travel restrictions with times and location it is best to address those on a one on one basis. If a person is on antibiotics for an infection, they will not be able to donate. Recent dental work including cleaning will keep you from donating.
Q8: For those of us that fall into the “best potential donors” category, where should we go to donate blood? Do you have any websites that you recommend for more information?
Dr. Cvitanovich: The Blood Center and Ochsner are two accessible locations.
Mickie Wilson-Martin: https://www.ochsner.org/giving/donate There are many ways listed on the website.
Q9: If we cannot donate blood, are there other ways to help by spreading the word, donating financially, donating snacks or supplies, or volunteering?
Dr. Cvitanovich: Those who cannot donate can help by recruiting others to donate. I have personal experience with this. I wanted to donate a few weeks ago, but was told that I couldn’t donate because of a recent knee replacement surgery. I then recruited my wife and daughter to donate. I even drove them there and waited outside the bloodmobile for them.
Mickie Wilson-Martin: https://www.ochsner.org/giving/donate
Q10: If we do decide to donate blood, what should we make sure to do before, during, and after we donate? (Should we wear a mask, eat before or after, etc.)
Dr. Cvitanovich: It’s smart to wear a mask. Practice Social Distancing while waiting. Hydrate yourself well for a few hours before donating. Prepare to feel proud after donating!
Mickie Wilson-Martin: Eating a good meal and hydrating before a donation are always good ideas.
For more information on how to donate, where to donate, and eligibility requirements, please visit the following sites:
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