Local News

Blood donations needed after Texas school shooting, Illinois blood banks say

Local blood centers ask residents to donate for Texas and other disasters

Blood banks in northern Illinois and across the country put out a call Wednesday morning encouraging donors to come in and donate.

Local blood centers were asked to share some of their stored blood with hospitals in the Uvalde, Texas, area, in response to the school shooting that left 21 people – 19 children and two adults – dead.

Another 17 people were injured and remain hospitalized after the shooting Tuesday at the town’s Robb Elementary School. The shooter was killed by police during the rampage.

The crowdsourcing site GoFundMe has established a hub on its website at bit.ly/GoFundMeUvalde where people looking to donate can find verified fundraisers for the families of those killed or injured in the shooting.

“The GoFundMe community is coming together to support all those affected,” GoFundMe said on its website. “Our Trust & Safety team will continue to update this hub with more fundraisers as they are verified. Donate to verified Texas elementary school shooting fundraisers … to offer your help.”

Five verified fundraisers were on the site by mid-afternoon Wednesday.

Area blood banks are asking anyone who is able to donate now, said Heidi Ognibene, chief operating officer at the Rock River Valley Blood Center. The organization provides blood to the Mercyhealth Hospital and Medical Center-Harvard, as well as the SwedishAmerican Medical Center-Belvidere and the Beloit Health System.

While units donated here are not promised to Texas, the additional supplies do help ensure blood will be available to them as the need arises, Ognibene said.

The Rock River Valley Blood Center is part of the Blood Emergency Readiness Corps, a national coalition of blood centers founded in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The coalition called for an activation of its member services Wednesday morning in response to the shooting. The blood centers were asked to send units of O-negative or O-positive blood to south Texas hospitals, according to a news release.

“We got together to help in the middle of a national blood shortage,” Ognibene said.

That shortage was caused, in part, by the pandemic, she said.

Vitalant, formerly called LifeSource, is among the community blood centers providing blood to South Texas Blood and Tissue, Vitalant spokeswoman Jaelyn Bishop said.

“Our hearts go out to the victims and their loved ones of yesterday’s senseless tragedy in Uvalde, Texas. It is the second mass shooting in our country in just 10 days,” Bishop said, adding Vitalant “stand[s] ready to provide more if requested.”

Although many people chose to donate blood during the pandemic, there were fewer emergency situations and fewer people seeking elective treatments. Once mask mandates dropped around the country, so did donations, Ognibene said. The need still is critical, however, she said.

Blood donated locally ensures a ready blood supply at all times.

“If we did not have it, we would not be able to assist when they asked for help,” she said.

Extra blood products will be held in reserve for any critical-need scenario, such as a mass shooting or natural disaster, according to the Blood Emergency Readiness Corps website. Donated blood has a 42-day shelf life.

The Rock River Center relies heavily on mobile donation sites – another service that has seen fewer participants during the pandemic, Ognibene said. Blood drives are set for June 22 at the Harvard Mercyhealth hospital and July 13 at the Harvard Diggins Library.

To schedule a donation before those scheduled events, create an account at the website rrvbc.org, on the myRRVBC app or by calling 815-965-8751. Once registered, users can see other blood donation site and drive dates.

ImpactLife, also part of the coalition, has donation centers in the Quad Cities area, central Illinois and near St. Louis. Go to bloodcenter.org to find its locations.

Vitalant has locations in Chicago and the suburbs, including Crystal Lake, Naperville and Lake Bluff. Its website is vitalant.org.