Cascade Regional Blood Services needs your help to give the lifesaving gift of blood to the pint-sized patients at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma. Cascade Regional Blood Services is the sole provider of blood products to MultiCare Health System, and has been providing Mary Bridge with record amounts of blood since earlier this spring when Seattle Children’s Hospital was forced to shut down four of its operating rooms due to a dangerous strain of Aspergillus mold, which can be harmful to young patients. 

With these patients being transferred from Seattle to Tacoma for surgery and recovery, Mary Bridge is in dire need of blood donors to help continue to support the high demand for blood products. Surgeons at Mary Bridge typically perform just one heart surgery per week, but with the influx of patients being transferred from Seattle Children’s Hospital, surgeons at Mary Bridge will be performing 15-20 pediatric heart surgeries this month alone.

Baby blood donors CRBS
A dedicated baby blood donor routinely answers the urgent call for a baby in need of a transfusion. Photo courtesy: CRBS

“From the initial closure at Seattle Children’s Hospital, we have seen our demand for blood on pediatric patients increase nearly 400%,” Richard Freed, Cascade Regional Blood Service’s Laboratory Operations Manager tells us. “At this point, we expect the demand to increase even further. Recruiting, collecting and processing blood for the pediatric patients is always a challenge.”

Months later, Seattle Children’s Hospital’s main operating rooms still remain closed after a recent visit from a team of outside experts found a number of deficiencies in the air quality. With several improvements underway at Seattle Children’s, the timeline of when the operating rooms will re-open is still uncertain. The hospital continues to send more and more young patients to Mary Bridge, and resident surgeons and anesthesiologists have even had to obtain additional credentials in order to perform surgeries at other hospitals throughout the region.

Each year, more than 170 pediatric heart surgeries and other special procedures are conducted annually at Mary Bridge. With the need for blood donations higher than ever before, Cascade Regional Blood Services is urging donors to step up to the plate to help support young patients in need. Volunteer blood donors provide 100% of the Puget Sound’s blood supply and just one teaspoon of blood can save a baby’s life. 

CRBS Callie
One of a set of triplets, she was born at 32 weeks gestation weighing less than 2 pounds due to severe IUGR. After a few weeks in the NICU at Mary Bridge her liver began to shut down due to lack of body fat. Within 24 hours of blood transfusions she was a completely different baby; healthy pink and alert. Photo courtesy: CRBS

As the numbers of pediatric patients traveling to Tacoma for operations increase, Cascade Regional Blood Service encourages all eligible donors and even first-time donors to make a difference this summer by making a blood donation to help keep supplies high enough in order to support the record amounts of young patients in need. A standard blood donation takes less than one hour and collects about one pint of blood.

Donors are also encouraged to consider becoming a reoccurring donor as a part of their Baby Blood Program, which provides whole blood and platelets to specific pediatric patients, typically on very short notice. When a pediatric heart surgery is scheduled at Mary Bridge, a phone call is made to Cascade Regional where they are able to match donors with the desired blood type for a child in need. Donors are asked to come in as soon as possible in order to get their donation tested and sent off to the patient just in time for surgery.

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Callie and sisters now. Photo courtesy: CRBS

“In addition to the high demand for blood products for surgeries and transfusions at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, Cascade Regional Blood Services continues to supply blood for patients in other area hospitals as well. The summer months are historically very challenging on the blood supply since our devoted donors are out enjoying the sun or out of town,” Candy Morrison, Communications Manager at Cascade Regional Blood Services explains. “Thankfully, our dedicated donor base has ensured we have kept up with the demand; however, we’re calling on all eligible donors and new donors to please roll up your sleeves and set a date to donate online or phone 1-877-24-BLOOD so we can continue to save lives in our own community and those pint-sized patients that travel from all over the country for life-saving heart surgeries.”

To make a blood donation, Cascade Regional Blood Services makes the process as easy as possible. With three conveniently located donor centers in Tacoma, Federal Way and Puyallup, appointments can be made online in just moments and walk-in donations are welcome. To learn more about becoming a blood donor, visit Cascade Regional Blood Service’s website for more information.

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