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Warmer weather means beginning of 'trauma season' and a growing need for blood donors

OSF Trauma Chief Dr. Faran Bokhari stands in an operating room in the Emergency Department of OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria. This room is where some patients will receive blood transfusions in the "Golden Hour" of care immediately following their injury.
Collin Schopp
Dr. Faran Bokhari, OSF trauma chief, stands in an operating room in the emergency department of OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria. This room is where some patients will receive blood transfusions in the "Golden Hour" of care immediately following their injury.

The need for blood donation is rising with a seasonal rise in injuries.

Dr. Faran Bokhari, chief of trauma at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, refers to the late-spring/early-summer period as “trauma season,” when the rising temperatures coincide with a rise of injuries from car and motorcycle crashes, farm accidents and gunshot wounds.

“People hemorrhage from those injuries and you need to get blood into them fast,” said Bokhari. “You have the ‘golden hour’ and you have to resuscitate them back to where they used to be. Or the rate of death is extremely high.”

The “golden hour” is a finding that trauma patients have a considerably more effective recovery when they receive a large blood transfusion within an hour of their injury. Once patients are in OSF’s trauma center at the emergency department, doctors can find the cause of external or internal bleeding, begin a transfusion and call the appropriate surgical professionals in a matter of minutes, said Bokhari.

“The people that are the front lines are the trauma surgeons, along with their residents and all that,” said Bokhari. “That and the nurses that are excellent. [They] deliver that care and deliver it within the ‘golden Hour.’”

The urgent need for blood in an emergency situation means hospitals need to have plenty of it on hand — and more just a short time away. Some emergency helicopters have even started carrying a supply of blood to perform transfusions in the air.

For OSF, there’s the nonprofit blood center Impact Life that has a distribution location just minutes away in Peoria. Impact Life also serves Carle Health hospitals and multiple hospitals in Bloomington-Normal. In total, public relations manager Kirby Winn said they provide blood to more than 100 hospitals across Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin.

“We’re collecting blood every day and testing and processing and adding to [our supply],” said Winn. “But then also the utilization side is daily as well. So, where we want to be is at least a five day supply, or you know, a five, six, seven days supply is terrific.”

When Winn said “a day supply,” he means the amount utilized daily by those same more than 100 hospitals. He said the blood center usually sits at a 2 1/2 to a 3-day day supply on average.

Impact Life gets all of its blood through donations at drives that tend to dip during the summer months. There aren’t opportunities to run the drives at schools and there are more long holiday weekends, which Winn says can result in weeks where donations are as much as 20% below the average.

Winn encourages people to learn more and donate, while Dr. Bokhari said everyone should want to donate as part of a “social contract.”

“You are part of a community, like it or not,” he said. “And you have to be supportive of your own community.”

There’s a tool to find the nearest way to donate blood through Impact Life here.

Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.