Thanks for the help, Gordon Hartman/Morgan’s Wonderland

Every year, South Texas Blood & Tissue Center has the privilege of nominating local individuals, businesses and organizations for national recognition of their efforts to promote blood donations. Here are one of the nominees submitted for 2020:

Gordon Hartman/Morgan’s Wonderland

After recovering from COVID-19 in July 2020, Gordon Hartman (the founder of Morgan’s Wonderland) added one more cause to the many he supports – donations of blood and COVID-19 convalescent plasma.

He advocated for blood and plasma donations and even donated plasma following his recovery. His advocacy included speaking with media frequently, and contacting local political and business leaders, about the need for donations.

He also opened the doors to the Morgan’s Wonderland theme park for monthly blood drives.

Thanks for the help, Northside Independent School District

Every year, South Texas Blood & Tissue Center has the privilege of nominating local individuals, businesses and organizations for national recognition of their efforts to promote blood donations.. Northside Independent School District won the award for School Blood Drive of the Year at the 2021 ADRP Conference:

Northside Independent School District

In spring 2020, the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center was busy replacing hundreds of blood drives that had been canceled because of the pandemic. Donor recruitment staff reached out to the city’s largest school district, Northside ISD.

Don Schmidt, the district’s Assistant Superintendent of Adult and Community Services, loved the idea of hosting drives in empty school facilities.

Following dozens of site visits and meetings, the first drive was April 2 at Stevens High School. In 2020 alone, 3,299 donations came from Northside ISD locations – including 945 from first-time donors.

Thanks for the help, Jordan Ford

Every year, South Texas Blood & Tissue Center has the privilege of nominating local individuals, businesses and organizations for national recognition of their efforts to promote blood donations. Here are one of the nominees submitted for 2020:

Jordan Ford

Like most businesses, the oldest Ford dealership in San Antonio struggled to bring in customers during the pandemic in 2020.

But that didn’t stop dealer principal Marc Cross from saying “yes” in donating to the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center. In addition to donating blood, Cross also agreed to donate a two-­year lease on a new Ford Mustang to one lucky blood donor.

At the end of the summertime promotion, five donors were selected at random from among 34,495 donors to attend an event at Jordan Ford that also included the mayor and other community leaders. The winner was a San Antonio healthcare worker who had gone to the announcement during her lunch break.

Thanks for the help, Sinclair Broadcast Group San Antonio

Every year, South Texas Blood & Tissue Center has the privilege of nominating local individuals, businesses and organizations for national recognition of their efforts to promote blood donations. Here are one of the nominees submitted for 2020:

Sinclair Broadcast Group San Antonio

When the COVID-19 pandemic reached South Texas in March 2020, it immediately affected blood donations in the area. More than 1,000 blood drives were canceled during the pandemic.

Through the rest of the year, Sinclair Broadcast Group in San Antonio informed the public almost daily about the ongoing and urgent need for blood and convalescent plasma through its TV stations, WOAI (News 4 San Antonio) and KABB (FOX29).

The Sinclair Broadcast Group stations mentioned the need for blood more than 1,000 times in broadcasts, website stories and social media posts. They helped reach more than 128 million people in the San Antonio region.

Multiple factors put South Texas blood supply at risk, doctors say

A growing population, pent-up demand for surgeries and busy trauma centers have combined to create a blood shortage in South Texas, San Antonio doctors told a news conference Wednesday at the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center Donor Pavilion. 

Orders for blood are up 20% from a year ago, as the summer season – a typically slow one for blood donations – begins in earnest. Although the blood center saw a slight increase in blood donations last year, despite the pandemic, the 20% increase in demand is greatly outpacing the 2% growth in donations.   

“The need for blood never stops,” said Dr. Joyce G. Schwartz, Medical Director of the blood bank at Methodist Hospital. “We need the public’s help to avoid a critical shortage this summer.” 

Dr. Donald Jenkins, trauma surgeon at University Hospital and a professor of surgery at UT Health, said a combination of factors have led to the booming need for blood donations. 

While hospitalizations for COVID-19 have declined this year, beds at local hospitals remain full, he said. 

“And when there are more hospitalizations, there is more of a need for transfusions,” Dr. Jenkins said. 

A blood transfusion is the most commonly performed procedure in U.S. hospitals, said Elizabeth Waltman, Chief Operating Officer, South Texas Blood & Tissue Center. Twelve percent of all procedures in hospitals are transfusions; vaccinations are a distant second at 7%, according to a 2011 study. 

Dr. Jenkins said the rising need for medical care is the result of population growth in San Antonio and throughout South Texas as well as an increase in accidents as more people return to the roads. 

“We’re also one of the busiest transplant cities in the world,” he said. “We have many liver and kidney transplants here, and they depend on blood donors.” 

Some surgical procedures were postponed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and those surgeries now are being rescheduled, Dr. Schwartz said. 

“We’re continuing to see increases in the need for blood after the COVID pandemic,” she said. 

With the current shortage, the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center is working with area hospitals to evaluate virtually every order for blood, said Dr. Samantha Gomez Ngamsuntikul, Associate Medical Director for the blood center. 

“It’s painfully clear that because the demand for blood is outpacing the increase we’ve seen in donations, we are unable to complete all of the orders we are receiving from hospitals,” she said. “We’re looking to continue triaging blood requests all summer.” 

Members of the public can schedule a donation with the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center by visiting SouthTexasBlood.org or calling 210-731-5590. Donations also can be scheduled at University Hospital by calling 210-358-2912. 

Chart showing facts and demand for blood outpace supply

Surge in highway travel over Memorial Day weekend raises concern over low blood supply

Community asked to donate blood to honor heroes, help counter shortage as hospitals prepare for kickoff of summer travel season

The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center is asking the community to commemorate Memorial Day by helping to re-build the blood supply, with plans to keep its San Antonio and New Braunfels donor rooms open throughout the holiday weekend.

Continued growth in the demand for blood has resulted in critical shortages just as area hospitals are bracing for the kickoff of what’s predicted to be a busy summer travel season. While blood donations in our community have increased 2% over prior years, some hospitals in South Texas are needing 20% or more blood for their patients.

According to AAA, the number of people traveling this Memorial Day weekend is expected to increase by 60% from last year, with most expected to drive rather than fly.

“Although donations typically drop over holidays, we are hoping to see full donor rooms over the weekend and through next week,” said Adrienne Mendoza, Vice President at the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, a subsidiary of nonprofit BioBridge Global. “We know that in addition to scheduled surgeries and other procedures, hospitals need to have blood on hand for emergencies, from auto accidents to cases of childbirth complications.”

Communities across the country are reporting severe blood shortages going into the holiday weekend, with some centers reporting no blood available for local patients. Nationally, blood donations have declined and demand for blood is up more than 4% over the first quarter of 2020.

The spike in need can be attributed to rescheduled surgical procedures that were postponed because of COVID-19, along with increases because of the nation’s aging population and population growth. Meanwhile, many companies are waiting to resume regular blood drives as employees continue to work remotely.   

One San Antonio woman can attest to the need for blood to support emergency transfusions. In 1983, Laura was fortunate to survive a car accident that took the life of her mother. She suffered serious injuries and required multiple units of blood.

“There are no words to express my thanks to blood donors, other than to say you saved my life – and I’m sure you saved my arm as well,” she said. “Life would have gone on, but it would have been very different.”

Laura noted that when she was dealing with the loss of her mother, realizing that people made the effort to donate blood let her know that someone cared. Today, she is a regular blood donor, in honor of her mother and to help patients suffering from trauma and others in need of blood transfusions.

“The Memorial Day weekend is an opportunity to donate blood in honor of fallen military personnel, those who have lost their battle with coronavirus this last year or any family or friend who has passed from other causes,” said Mendoza, from South Texas Blood & Tissue. “It’s a gift that can honor their memory while also helping others currently fighting disease or injury.”

One complication with blood collections is the misconception that receiving the COVID-19 vaccine makes donors ineligible. There is no waiting period after a COVID-19 vaccine, as long as donors are feeling well.

About 60% of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood, but only 10% of those who are eligible actually make at least one donation a year. If just 2% more people stepped forward, blood shortages would end. 

In South Texas, more than 6 in 10 existing blood donors give just once a year. If those one-time donors came back for a second donation, collections would increase by more than 110 a day alone.

Blood donations at the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center’s seven donor rooms, as well as at community blood drives, are averaging around 400 a day. The center needs 600 a day to meet patient needs and to re-build the blood supply.

As an extra thank-you for those who take the time to give blood Friday, May 28, through Monday, May 31, donors will score double rewards and can choose two $10 eGift cards from 100+ retailers.

Donors can make an appointment with the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center by calling 210-731-5590 or visiting SouthTexasBlood.org. Same-day appointments are available at the center’s seven donor rooms, as well as at community blood drives.

2019 Red & White Ball bus reveal

The 2019 Red & White Ball “Dancing for a Cause” bloodmobile has arrived and is ready to save lives. A big thank you to our 2019 Foundation Chairs, Cindy & David Schneider, for developing this fabulous fundraising concept and working to see it through. 

Thank you to CJ Winckler (Deputy Medical Director, San Antonio Fire Department), Delaine Mathieu (Co-Anchor of News 4 San Antonio), Janel Garcia Kolodejck (CEO of TriQuest Business Services, LLC), Jenna Saucedo-Herrera (CEO of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation), Scott McMillian (Chairman and Co-Founder of Sendero Wealth Management), and Randy & Kay Harig (CEO and President of The Texas Research & Technology Foundation and VelocityTX; Owner and CEO of OfficeSource, Ltd.) for putting on their dancing shoes at our 2019 Red & White Ball to raise funds and share in our lifesaving mission.

And to Mary & Steve Brook and Claire & Patrick Rouse, our Red & White Ball Chairs, and all of the Red & White Ball committee: We are so grateful! None of this was possible without you. 

For information on this year’s Red and White Ball please visit RedandWhiteBallSA.org.

Ruiz’s ‘miracle story’ inspires him to advocate for blood donations

As the president of a bank and a trustee at a major university and large hospital system, Manny Ruiz tends to choose his words carefully. 

But he wasn’t hesitant to use the word “miracle” repeatedly when he described his battle with COVID-19 with members of the board of directors of The Blood & Tissue Center Foundation on Monday, May 17. 

In addition to a positive COVID-19 test in December, he also was diagnosed with double pneumonia. He had several close calls during his five days in the hospital, including one that required an emergency blood transfusion. 

His recovery has been long – he just recently went back to work as president of TexStar Bank and resumed his duties as a board of trustee at Baylor University. 

“This was a blessing in a lot of ways, because it’s allowed me to talk about my family and my faith,” he said. “And it’s allowed me to share stories about the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center and the COVID vaccine. 

“Do I like the journey that allowed me to do this? No, but it is a miracle. In being a miracle, I have to see the good and the blessings out of it.” 

Not long after he was admitted to Baptist Hospital in San Antonio – where he also is a trustee – and before he was put on a ventilator, Ruiz “coded” – his heart stopped for four minutes. Another minute could have led to brain damage, he said. 

“Those are things you think about after the fact,” he said. “Really, you’re just focused on living. ‘I just want to live and spend more time with my family.’ It was just a miracle there.” 

A little after two days at Baptist, Ruiz was transferred to Methodist Hospital and placed on an ECMO device, which essentially takes over functions of the heart and lungs to allow the body to heal. He was later told that just 40% of COVID-19 patients survive on that last-ditch therapy. 

And then the device malfunctioned and had to be replaced. A significant quantity of blood was left in the first device, which meant he needed a blood transfusion. 

“That was my first experience with the work done by the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center,” he said. “A lot of people, they drive by, they hear about it, but they don’t think much about it till they themselves or a family member is a recipient of blood.” 

That miracle led Ruiz to become a passionate advocate for blood donations. He put together a blood drive for Baylor alumni in San Antonio and has been working on organizing drives throughout Texas. 

“We’re bringing awareness and we’re talking it,” he said. “I did an interview on TV over this; it’s not about Manny and this miracle story, it’s really been about the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center. 

“I’m just one person who got sick with COVID. But there are thousands of others in our community who get sick with other things. And there’s a vital role that the center plays in their treatment.” 

Alamo Quarry Market shines for Donate Life Month

Quarry stacks lit blue and green to raise awareness about organ, eye and tissue donation 

The stacks at the Alamo Quarry Market will be lit blue and green from April 19-29 to raise awareness about organ, eye and tissue donation during National Donate Life Month.

South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, a subsidiary of BioBridge Global, and Texas Organ Sharing Alliance (TOSA) are encouraging the community to participate by joining the Donate Life Texas registry throughout April.

Those who would like to join or check their status on the organ, eye and tissue donation registry can visit DonateLifeTexas.org/SouthTexasBlood.

National Donate Life Month, observed in April, was established in 2003 to encourage Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors and to honor those who have saved and enhanced lives through the gift of donation. This week, Donate Life Texas announced that 13 million Texans have registered to the Donate Life Registry.

“Every day, 17 people in America die while waiting for a transplant,” President Joe Biden said in a proclamation about National Donate Life Month. “Yet, all of us have the power to help: one donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation and can improve another 75 lives through eye and tissue donation.”

Elizabeth Waltman, chief operating officer at South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, personally knows how the gift of donation can help. Following an accident in 2018, she was experiencing pain so horrible she could hardly walk.

Waltman received donated bone during surgery to help stabilize and heal her spine.  

“The surgery made a huge difference in my mobility and quality of life,” Waltman said. “I believe that the donation of bone expedited the healing process and got me back to work and doing the things I love to do quickly.”

Each year, 1.5 million people like Waltman will be healed through the gift of tissue donation. Tissue donations can help those suffering from burns, traumatic wounds, disease or malfunctioning heart valves, arthritis, athletic injuries and more.

Through the month of April, information about the Donate Life Texas registry will also be available in South Texas Blood & Tissue donor rooms. A remembrance board is set up in the Donor Pavilion donor room where donor families can leave a message in honor of their loved one.

In addition, on Tuesday, April 20 at 10 a.m., TOSA will host an Overview of Organ Donation webinar featuring a panel discussion with a clinical member of TOSA’s team as well as donation partners. The hour-long webinar will also feature Stories of Hope from a donor family and a kidney recipient who received her transplant in February. 

To sign up, visit TOSA’s website, www.TOSA1.org

Kimberly Monroe: Called to action, educate with compassion

Few things in life allow us to give life to others. But Kimberly Monroe has made a career of giving life for the past 19 years.

As Manager of Business Development with STBTC Donor Development, her primary job is to promote the importance of tissue and organ donor registration, especially in the African American community – a community under-represented on all donor registries.

A native of Homestead, Florida, Kimberly felt she was called to her career after seeing blood cancers take a toll on her family and community. Today, she also recognizes the need for tissue and organ donors, and she works with local healthcare partners to encourage as many people as possible to sign up.

“It’s incredible how the gift from one tissue donor can help so many people suffering from burns, heart problems, broken bones and more,” she said.

One of her goals is to encourage African Americans, as well as many other ethnic groups, to join registries to donate organs, tissue and stem cells.

“Unfortunately, many minorities do not donate, either because of stigma or a lack of information,” she says. “African-Americans are the least likely to donate or find a match in the stem cell registry. But there’s a real need for donors of all minority backgrounds.”

The global pandemic has had a serious effect on tissue donations as well, Monroe says.

“Protocol changes and concerns around COVID-19 in hospitals have reduced the number of donations and delayed lifesaving transplants,” she says.

Despite the struggles, Monroe is happy to be working hard to save lives.

“Every day, I’m energized to come to work,” she says. “I love how rewarding it feels, and how I am part of a variety of projects. Every day brings something new to the table.”