The Western Kentucky Regional Blood Center is currently in need of both O negative and O positive blood types, Vicki Ellis, director of donor resources said Thursday.

Ellis said O negative is a universal blood type, meaning it can be used for anyone, regardless of their own blood type. It is that ability that makes it a much-needed resource for blood banks across the world.

“It can be used while a hospital is determining a patient’s blood type,” Ellis said.

Ellis said the COVID-19 pandemic caused some major changes with blood donations, and more than 30 blood drives were canceled in the first month, “with the swipe of a pen,” due to government orders.

It was an order that could have been catastrophic for blood banks, but the Western Kentucky Regional Blood Center was able to develop a system to keep the donations coming.

“We went to an appointment format,” Ellis said.

Those wishing to donate blood can schedule an appointment on the blood center’s Facebook Page, or call 270-684-9296. Walk-ins are also welcome.

Ellis said that overall, there seemed to be a decrease in the amount of blood needed for a period while elective medical procedures were prohibited, but those numbers have rebounded.

“The significant increase we saw was from COVID-19 convalescent plasma,” she said.

People who have recovered from COVID-19 develop antibodies to the coronavirus that remain in the plasma portion of their blood. Studies have shown that transfusing the plasma from a person who has recovered from COVID-19 into a patient still fighting the disease can help boost the patient’s immune system and potentially help them recover. The treatment is known as COVID-19 convalescent plasma.

COVID-19 convalescent plasma is a treatment that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use authorization to use in treating COVID-19 patients. Only people who have recovered from COVID-19 have the potential of being convalescent plasma donors.

Ellis said one of the biggest misconceptions about giving blood is that some people that have never done it believe it will be a painful experience.

“All they have to compare it to is getting a shot,” she said. “A lot of the time if you are sore from a shot it is because of the medicine in it, not the needle itself.”

Those that received an mRNA vaccine such as Pfizer or Moderna may donate blood immediately after vaccination as long as they are feeling well and meet all other donor criteria.

The Western Kentucky Regional Blood Center, at 3015 Old Hartford Road, Owensboro, is a nonprofit organization established in 1978. it currently serves six hospitals and three air ambulances in Western Kentucky.

For more information, www.wkrbc.org.

Nathan Havenner, Messenger-Inquirer, nhavenner@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-228-2837

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