New ways to save lives

February 24, 2010 2:16:13 AM PST
The Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center needs 1,000 donations a day to keep up with the demand for southeast Texas. But this year, the center may ask you to roll up your sleeve and give something other than whole blood. In May 2009, HPD Officer Lloyd Morrison almost died while investigating a drunk driving accident. He was hit by a second alleged drunk, and then a third.

"I got out of my car to give aid to the person that hit me," he said. "When I got to the front of my police car, another drunk driver hit my car. It pushed my car over me, and as I fell to the ground, it ran over my legs."

His pelvis was crushed, his right arm nearly severed.

"So where would you be without people who donated blood?" we asked.

"I'd be dead," said Morrison. "There is no doubt."

In the days and weeks after his accident, other HPD officers held blood drives to help. Morrison has received more than 38 units of blood and countless platelets. He is just one of the many people who've survived trauma because of blood donations to the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center.

Of course, the blood center is always looking for more donors and they always need whole blood. But this year, the focus has shifted somewhat. Depending on your blood type, the center might get a little bit picky.

"Now, we're able to collect certain components that our patients need and that all depends upon your blood type," said Beth Hartwell, the medical director with the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center.

She says for the first time, they are asking not for whole blood, but for red blood cells or platelets or plasma, based on the type of blood you have to offer.

If you have Type B blood, they may ask for red blood cells. The same with Type O. If you have Type A/B, you may be asked to give plasma. And for Type A donors, the gift could be platelets.

"If you are Group A, your platelets can be given to a Group A or a Group O patient and that's about 90 percent of all of our patients," said Hartwell.

There is an advantage to taking only part of the blood and returning the rest. Whereas a whole blood donor can only give four times a year, a platelet donor could give weekly, up to 24 times in a year.

That's not to say you can't still give whole blood. It's needed in large volumes every day, as Officer Morrison can attest.

"Don't stop giving," he said. "Please don't stop."

He's up and walking on titanium rods now and has some strength back in his right hand. And he is thankful for what he has.

The blood center serves more than 170 hospitals and health care institutions in the 26-county Texas gulf coast, Brazos Valley and east Texas regions.