Need for donated blood rising, donation drive to be held on campus


Illustration by Ryder From

Lauren Campbell

Kentucky Blood Center, the largest FDA licensed non-profit blood bank in Kentucky, relies on volunteer blood donors to provide 400 pints of blood per day to meet area patients’ needs.

However, the need for blood has increased since the start of COVID-19 due to cancelled blood drive donations.

“While blood donation is safe and healthy, COVID-19 has caused many organizations, including schools and businesses working remotely, to cancel blood drives. In addition, many folks are trying to avoid going out during this time where coronavirus cases are rising,” said Mandy Brajuha.

KBC is the sole provider of blood to every hospital in Lexington and over 70 hospitals in the state of Kentucky. KBC’s mission is to ensure there is enough blood for all Kentuckians.

“When a donor chooses to donate blood with KBC, they are committing not just to saving lives, but to saving local lives. The person whose life you save could be a neighbor, a fellow student, a teacher. There is no better way to impact the community where you live and study than by providing lifesaving blood to support area hospitals,” Brajuha said.

Since October, KBC’s blood collection process also includes a COVID-19 antibody test for donors. In addition to detecting the virus in an individual at the time of testing, antibody tests determine whether or not they have had the virus in the past.

The blood that tests positive for the antibodies is used to help treat current COVID patients with extreme symptoms.

Through convalescent plasma therapy, blood donated from those who have recovered from COVID-19 has antibodies to the virus. Once donated, the blood is processed to remove blood cells, leaving behind plasma and the antibodies, which can be given to people currently fighting COVID-19 to increase their ability to fight the virus.

“If someone has recovered from COVID-19 or tested positive for antibodies to the disease, we are interested in having them donate convalescent plasma. This blood product carries the disease antibodies and that antibody-rich plasma is being used as one treatment method for those critically ill with COVID-19,” Brajuha said.

KBC normally hosts four university-wide blood drives at UK’s Student Center every year; however, due to the unavailability of the Student Center for social distancing purposes, KBC has had to cancel these drives, which are their largest.

“COVID has impacted our collections greatly and we’ve had to be creative about where we hold drives on campus since the Student Center, our largest normal collection location, has been unavailable this year,” Brajuha said.

Instead, they have been hosting blood drives at smaller campus locations, including the upcoming Big Blue Crush Drive Nov. 16 through Nov. 20 at Lewis Honors College, Buell Armory, and the Patterson Building.

All student donors will receive a long-sleeve Big Blue Crush t-shirt and a $5 Starbucks gift card.

However, unlike at their two off-campus collection locations, KBC has not yet been approved to test for COVID-19 antibodies at their Big Blue Crush Drive, and rarely see student donors at their off-campus locations.

“Unfortunately, we rarely see student donors at our two Lexington donor centers, which is why it is so important to us to come to campus to collect blood four times a year. We rely on the University and its students, staff and faculty so much but know it isn’t always realistic for students to get off campus and out to our donor centers,” Brajuha said.

The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department reported Saturday that UK students make up 21% of all cases reported this year in Fayette County. Nearly 2,500 students have recovered from the virus.

In September, Dr. Deborah Birx, the nation’s Coronavirus Response Coordinator, spoke to a media about UK’s response to the virus.

Birx recommended UK introduce antibody testing on campus in a further attempt to decrease the spread of COVID-19 by surveillance and case detection, and because college students would be a good source of antibody-rich plasma to use for struggling patients. Birx called donating plasma “”a real contribution to the American people.”

UK has not enacted Birx’s antibody-testing suggestion

The blood donation process both on and off-campus takes about 30 to 40 minutes to complete, from registration to the end of the actual donation.

“Typically it takes 30-40 minutes to complete the entire blood donation process. This includes registration, answering your health history questions, screening, where we make sure the donor is healthy and meets all requirements to give blood that day – pulse, blood pressure, hemoglobin check, etc., and the actual donation. The actual time to donate a pint of blood is typically between 5-10 minutes,” Brajuha said.

Protective measures are also in place to ensure COVID-19 isn’t spread through the donation process.

“We always work hard to keep our donors safe, but of course have implemented additional precautions during COVID. Temperatures are taken prior to entrance to our donation locations, both donor centers and mobile collection areas. Masks are required to be worn by all of our staff and all donors. Beds are spaced more than six feet apart and sanitized between each donor. Commonly touched surfaces are being cleaned more frequently as well. We always want donors to feel, as we do, that their health and safety is of the upmost importance to us and that hasn’t changed,” Brajuha said.

Brajuha encourages people to donate blood to help the Lexington community.

“There is no substitute for human blood. We can’t manufacture it in a lab. Without volunteer donors rolling up their sleeves, there will not be adequate blood on the hospital shelves when our neighbors need it. When everyday Kentuckians roll up their sleeves to give the gift of life, they ensure there is blood there when traumas happen, when children or parents need cancer treatments, when burn victims are being treated and for so many other uses,” Brajuha said.

People can register to donate blood at Big Blue Crush or at their two locations in Lexington at