We Are Blood opens location in Cedar Park to address blood and platelet shortages

We Are Blood, the nonprofit blood bank in central Texas, has opened a new donation center in Cedar Park.

The center at 251 N. Bell Blvd. has seven beds, three for the collection of platelets and four for whole blood donations. It will have the capacity to collect 800 units of whole blood and 200 units of platelets per month.

The center represented a one-time capital expenditure estimated at $715,000 and is expected to cost $850,000 annually in new expenditures.

The need for platelets is one of the main reasons this center is opening its doors and why the South Austin center at 3100 W. Slaughter Lane was recently expanded, according to the nonprofit. Both now match the capacity of the Round Rock location, but not the main hub in North Austin, which also handles all blood from hubs and mobile drives.

When it comes to getting enough platelet donations, “every week is a big challenge for us,” said Nick Canedo, vice president of community engagement for We Are Blood.

While the school shooting in Uvalde led to an increase in blood donations that week, Canedo said, “we constantly need more donors.”

Every day, We Are Blood needs to collect more than 200 units of whole blood, from which it will take red blood cells, plasma and platelets, and it needs 40 separate units of platelets to meet the current level of basic needs. .

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A growing need for blood

Over the past five years, the need for platelets has increased by 41% in the Central Texas region. The need for red blood cells from whole blood cell donations is also on the rise – 28% since 2017.

Platelets are the smallest component of your blood and help your blood to clot. When your platelet count is too low, you risk bleeding to death.

We Are Blood predicts that this year the need for platelets will increase by 14% compared to last year and the need for red blood cells will increase by 6%.

We Are Blood also projects by 2026 it will need 30% more platelets and 20% more red blood cells than it currently collects.

The need for these types of blood products is fueled by population growth, but the need for platelets has been specifically affected by the number and types of procedures that are currently being performed in central Texas.

Platelets are most often needed by people undergoing cancer treatments, which affect the number of platelets, but they are also used for traumatic incidents and organ transplants to control bleeding.

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We Are Blood has opened a new donation center in Cedar Park at 251 N. Bell Blvd.

The Central Texas medical community has grown rapidly. Two new children’s hospitals are coming to North Austin, one from Dell Children’s Medical Center, slated to open in November, and the other from Texas Children’s Hospital, slated to open in February 2024. St. David’s HealthCare is building hospitals in Kyle and Leander and a behavioral health hospital in North Austin. All three are slated to open in 2024. Other hospitals are increasing capacity with additions.

New organ transplant programs have also begun operations. Dell Children’s performed its first heart transplant in October 2020 and plans to do its first kidney transplant this summer. The adult kidney transplant program at Dell Seton Medical Center performed its first transplant in February and plans to expand to liver and pancreas transplants. The kidney transplant program at St. David’s North Austin has also grown.

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Platelets are complicated to collect

We Are Blood only collects platelets at one of its four donation centers: North Austin, South Austin, Round Rock and now Cedar Park. Platelet donations take two to three hours because the donor is attached to a machine that removes the platelets from the blood and puts the rest of the blood back into the body. These machines are heavy, making them difficult to transport to a mobile donation site, and mobile readers cannot tie up a bed for two or three hours for platelet donation.

Prior to the opening of the Cedar Park site and the expansion of the South Austin site, there were sometimes not enough appointment slots available at donation centers for platelet and whole blood donors.

Platelet donors can donate once a week, while whole blood donors can donate every 56 days.

Nick Canedo, vice president of community engagement for We Are Blood, talks about the importance of expanding the Cedar Park Donation Center.

Not enough red blood either

We Are Blood has recently experienced shortages. The second weekend in June, he had to tell the hospitals he serves in 10 counties to keep O-negative blood, which is the blood type that can be given to any recipient and is especially important in traumas, when there is no time for blood types.

Holidays, heat and high gas prices all play a role in fewer donors coming to donate, according to health officials. We Are Blood is trying to get more people to donate in June by donating $5 to the Central Texas Food Bank or the Austin Humane Society in honor of everyone who donates this month- this.

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Melanie O’Neill, 59, was donating whole blood at the new Cedar Park Center on Friday. “I try to be pretty religious about it,” said O’Neill, who said she’s been donating since she was 17. She lives in Georgetown and traveled 40 minutes every 56 days to the center of Round Rock. The Cedar Park location is only 20 minutes from her home.

“It’s so my pleasure,” O’Neill said.

“We can’t do it in a lab,” O’Neill says of the blood. “Only people can do this. It’s super important that everyone gives if they can.”

We Are Blood tries to keep enough blood on hand to handle a high-use incident like a mass shooting or multi-vehicle car accident, but it also relies on a network of other blood banks across the country. Each week, We Are Blood is asked to help another bank that has reached a critical level with its blood supply.

“It never gets lost,” Canedo said.

With the opening of the Cedar Park facility, We Are Blood expects to have sufficient capacity through 2024. It plans to add another mobile blood drive team to expand capacity through 2025 or 2026. He also plans to add a donor center in southeast Austin. years to come.

The new Cedar Park Blood Donation Center has seven beds, three for platelet collection and four for whole blood donations.