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LaHood Offers Blood Donation To Highlight Supply Shortage

210504 LaHood blood donor 1.jpg
Joe Deacon/WCBU
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U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, prepares to donate blood Tuesday at the ImpactLife blood center in Peoria.

U.S Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, is hoping to lead by example in urging people to donate blood as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic impacts supply.

LaHood made a donation of his own Tuesday at the newly renamed ImpactLife blood center on Glen Avenue in Peoria, noting how critical the blood supply is to the health care system.

“As we've seen over the last 15 months with COVID, blood donations are down 30-40% across the country,” said LaHood. “So I think it's important that we recognize that and encourage people to give blood.”

Previously known by three different regional names, ImpactLife is the not-for-profit community blood center serving more than 120 hospitals across Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Wisconsin – including OSF HealthCare and UnityPoint Health.

“We are the sole provider of blood to central Illinois,” said Jim Watts, ImpactLife’s manager of donor and government relations.

“Right now we are still seeing an urgent need for blood donation. We need people to come out now; we need people to come out this week,” said Watts. “We are sitting at about a one- or two-day supply of our O-negative and O-positive blood, and we need the other blood types as well.”

LaHood arrived at the facility around 11 a.m. to provide a full blood donation, which is comprised of red blood cells, platelets, and plasma.

“Our hospitals and medical facilities, they need blood. We need it every day, our medical professionals, whether it's for surgeries, whether it's for adults or children or senior citizens,” said LaHood. “So I'm really here today to encourage people to give blood and remind people how important it is to our health care system.”

Watts said COVID-19 has hindered the agency's ability to hold mobile blood drives.

“The pandemic is still having effects on us,” said Watts. “People are working at home, so our mobile blood drives at some businesses aren't happening. Our blood drives at high schools are not happening. So we're continuing to see that crunch.”

But he stressed that donating blood remains a safe procedure, and like almost everywhere else extra precautions are being taken to prevent spreading any types of viruses.

“We are already very heavily regulated, as it should be for blood and blood donation,” he said. “But we're taking extra steps just to make sure that all of our contact surfaces are wiped down. Of course everyone is wearing a mask, and we are having folks make appointments so people are not just walking in and we can maintain that donor flow.”

The renaming officially went into effect Monday, with ImpactLife taking the place of the former identities: Central Illinois Community Blood Center (based in Springfield), Community Blood Services of Illinois (Urbana), and Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center (Davenport, Iowa.).

“Obviously, that alone just takes a mouthful to say. It was based on geography, with separate blood centers that have eventually came together years ago,” said Watts. “It just made sense for us to come together under one name.”

Originally established independently in the 1970s, the three organizations merged into a single entity a decade ago. The renaming project took an entire year and included input from donors, blood drive coordinators, hospital representatives, and the Board of Directors.

“We went through an entire process to come up with a new name. We surveyed our employees, we surveyed our partners in the community, went to the public to find a name that was fitting for us,” said Watt. “We thought, ‘what a better name than ImpactLife’ – what we do, what our donors do, and the impact that they have on people’s lives.”

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