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.”

National Donate Life Month

April is National Donate Life Month (NDLM) to honor those who have saved lives through the gift of donation, their families, and help encourage Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors.

While we continued to take COVID-19 precautions, you can still help us honor your loved ones through our Facebook Group – STBTC Grief Support.  

Here are some ways you can participate this week:

Saturday, April 10 – Volunteer Appreciation Day

Share a photo of your loved one or your family doing volunteer work (the photo doesn’t need to be recent!)

Sunday, April 11 – Create Donate Life Rocks

Paint a rock in honor of your loved one to put in your garden. If you’re in San Antonio, you can also bring it to our Donor Pavilion and place it in our Legacy Garden. Don’t forget to share a photo of your painted rock on our Facebook Group, or on your social media with #DonateLifeMonth.

Monday, April 12 – Donate Life Flag Raising Day

Share a photo of your flag with a few sentences about your loved one and #DonateLifeMonth. We will be posting our flag raising in the STBTC Grief Support Facebook group.

Tuesday, April 13 – Write a Message of Hope

Write a message about your loved one, to other families who may be going through their grief journey, or to those who may have received an organ, eye, or tissue donation. We will also have a bulletin board posted at our Donor Pavilion if you would like to leave a message.

Wednesday, April 14 – Thank Your Healthcare Heroes

Post a message of love to our healthcare heroes, who have worked so hard over the last year.

Thursday, April 15 – Donate Life Chalk

Get your sidewalk chalk out and create some Donate Life-inspired art!

Friday, April 16 – National Blue and Green Day

Wear your Donate Life shirt, or blue and green. Take a photo and post it to your social media with #DonateLifeMonth and why you support the organ, eye, and tissue registry.

Study shows teen blood donors more likely to also sign up for organ registry

A new study of teenagers in California found that students who donated blood were significantly more likely to be registered as organ donors.

Among the 1,784 students from four different population areas, 953 identified as blood donors. Of those, 314 (32.9%) were registered as organ donors – compared to 198 of the 831 non-blood donors in the survey (23.8%).

The disparity was evident in both male and female donors.

“I don’t really find this surprising,” said Kimberly Monroe, Manager, Business Development in Tissue at South Texas Blood & Tissue Center. “In my experience, when educated about donation, teens often express an interest in registering and will often inquire about how to do so.

“It’s especially true if they are nearing the age to obtain a driver’s license and they find out how easy it is to register when doing so.”

The study, Assessment of High School Students’ Participation in Blood Donation and Registration as an Organ Donor, was published in the JAMA Network.

The study also found that among students who were not registered as organ donors, more than half were willing to register.

The authors of the study discussed that if “expressed willingness to register as an organ donor translates to registration, then simply asking high school students to register as organ donors might increase registration.

“However, intent does not always translate to action.”

Anyone 13 or older can register to be an organ and tissue donor in Texas, but a parent must give permission for donation until age 18.

Click here to learn more about Donate Life Texas and register as an organ donor.

Click here to learn more about blood donation and schedule an appointment.

South Texas Blood & Tissue Center donor rooms to remain open through holiday weekend to meet urgent need for blood

With the demand for blood soaring, the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center is fighting an expected seasonal drop in donations over Passover and Easter Week by keeping donor rooms open and asking the community to give the gift of life this holiday weekend.

The blood center will remain open through the Passover and the Easter holiday weekend including Sunday at all six San Antonio/New Braunfels donor rooms.

“An increase in surgeries and transplants seems to be driving a higher demand,” said Adrienne Mendoza, Vice President, Blood Operations at the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, a subsidiary of San Antonio nonprofit BioBridge Global. “We are aware of at least eight liver transplant procedures just this week. Several of those patients needed more than 50 units of blood each.

“Although the community has responded to our call for donations, we’re concerned that blood won’t be available to meet the increased level of demand, especially if there is a drop in collections this weekend,” Mendoza added. “Surgery, and especially transplants, can’t go forward without the hospital having sufficient blood on hand.”

There also is a significant need for donations for those undergoing cancer treatments. Cancer patients receive the largest percentage of blood transfusions year in and year out, and those transfusions are at risk because of the ongoing shortage.

Hospitals also need to have blood on hand for emergency trauma cases, from auto accidents to cases of childbirth complications.

A special thank-you for giving the gift of life

As an extra thank-you for those who take the time to give blood, donors will receive double rewards this month 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 in San Antonio, New Braunfels and Victoria, as well as at community blood drives.

The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center has added appointment slots as it works to build the blood supply. Anyone who already has an appointment is asked to keep it or contact the center to reschedule and open space for another donor.

Community leaders collaborate to change the odds for patients in need

Community encouraged to diversify marrow registry, improve odds for blood cancer and blood disease patients

City Council District 2 and VelocityTX Innovation Center are hosting a blood and marrow registry drive on March 31 at the Merchant’s Ice Complex on East Houston Street to help patients in need of a marrow or stem cell transplant. The drives originally were planned in February, in honor of Black History Month, but were postponed because of the severe winter weather.

“A blood or stem cell transplant is the best hope for thousands of patients fighting blood cancers and blood disorders, like sickle cell anemia, including patients in our community,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg. “These patients are more likely to find a matching donor from their own ethnic background. They need our help to increase their chances of finding a match.”

Marrow registry drives will also be hosted by Northside Independent School District on March 27 at the Dub Farris Athletic Complex and Paul Taylor Field House. The events at NISD will be in a drive-through format, allowing people to socially distance and sign up in the comfort of their vehicle.

  • Saturday, March 27 at Dub Farris Athletic Complex parking lot (8400 North Loop 1604 W), from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 27 at Paul Taylor Field House/Hardin Athletic Complex Gustafson parking lot (7001 Culebra Rd.), from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Wednesday, March 31 at VelocityTX Innovation Center (at the Merchant’s Ice complex, 1305 E. Houston St.), from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

“Being a part of the bone marrow registry is as easy as a swab of the cheek,” said District 2 councilmember Jada Andrews-Sullivan. “Please join us on March 31 at VelocityTX to register for the bone marrow registry.”

South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, a subsidiary of nonprofit BioBridge Global, and Be the Match are conducting the drives to raise awareness about the need for minority groups, like African Americans and Hispanics, to join the marrow registry.

For patients like Kami and Kyra Crawford, a marrow or stem cell transplant can be the potential cure to their daily fight with sickle cell anemia, a chronic blood disorder that causes severe pain and fatigue. The odds of finding a match are low—African American patients have only a 23% chance of finding the match they need to help cure their blood cancer or blood disorder.

While the sisters are looking at several treatment options in the hopes of living normal lives, they continue encouraging others to join the marrow registry in honor of other sickle cell patients.

For patients fighting blood cancers and blood disorders, a marrow or stem cell transplant is often a last hope for a cure. In order to receive a transplant, patients must find a matching donor—someone with the same genetic markers of the immune system, which is inherited from one’s ethnic or racial background. African Americans, Hispanics, and other minority groups are underrepresented on the registry, meaning those patients have a lower chance of finding their match.

“Northside is excited and proud to continue our partnership with South Texas Blood & Tissue Center and now to be part of the Be The Match marrow registry,” said Don Schmidt, Assistant Superintendent for Student, Family and Community Services at NISD. “We can all make a difference in the lives of those in need.”

“Every donation made on March 31 will increase the odds and help save lives for our friends and neighbors most at risk,” said Rene Dominguez, President and COO at Texas Research & Technology Foundation. “We are urging any eligible donor to support this community effort by scheduling a blood drive appointment online or join the marrow registry.”

For more information about the drives and how to join the registry, visit SouthTexasBlood.org/Swab.

Olsen family bloodmobile joins South Texas Blood & Tissue Center fleet

Multiple generations of Barbara Olsen’s family witnessed a rolling tribute to her on March 12 with the dedication of the Homer Olsen Family bloodmobile for the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center. 

Family members saw the new blood collections vehicle inside and out – including a Homer Olsen Family logo that features a yellow rose and an outline of the state of Texas. 

“It will be an amazing sight to me when I’m out on the road and see that yellow rose drive by,” said Cindy Schneider, a member of The Blood & Tissue Center Foundation board of directors and Homer and Barbara Olsen’s daughter. 

Elizabeth Waltman, Chief Operating Officer of the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, said the bloodmobile would be a lasting tribute to Barbara Olsen, who passed away after a long battle with leukemia – one that required multiple blood and platelets transfusions. 

“Thousands and thousands of people will set foot in that bus and save lives,” Waltman said. “From the bottom of our hearts, and for all those people, we say ‘thank you’ to Mr. Olsen.” 

Cathy Bailey, Homer Olsen’s daughter, thanked the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center and The Foundation. 

“We are so grateful to be able to give back to these wonderful organizations and our community,” she said. “They are saving lives every day, and for that we have our dad to thank.” 

Homer Olsen paid the entire price for the bloodmobile, following a tour of BioBridge Global in 2019. 

The vehicle goes into service across South Texas this spring, with the yellow rose logo on three sides as well as donor entrance and exit doors. Yellow was Barbara Olsen’s favorite color, and a bloodmobile is a fitting tribute to her mother’s legacy, Schneider said. 

“I especially remember a backyard party was had for mom with all of her best friends present,” she said. “Mom was the shining star of the party, just having a blood transfusion. She passed away about three weeks later. 

“She battled this disease with grace and dignity and was an inspiration to her family.” 

Ad on San Antonio Express-News about the new bus

Thank you, South Texas

You saved countless lives by donating blood.

It wasn’t easy. You turned out during a pandemic. Throughout the holidays. Following the winter storm of a lifetime.

You rolled up your sleeves and you gave. And thanks to you, across South Texas, patients received lifesaving blood to survive traumatic injury and support their fight against disease.

Special thanks to our elected officials, community leaders, businesses, schools, churches and countless others who promoted donations and sponsored drives during some of the most difficult of times.

Patients across South Texas still need your support.

The need continues to grow. Please give blood or host a blood drive, and spread the word.

Call 210-731-5590 or visit SouthTexasBlood.org/Donate.

Metro Health declares blood emergency

South Texas Blood & Tissue Center needing  2,000 donors to make up shortfall from weather closures

The unprecedented winter weather has left San Antonio and South Texas in a blood shortage emergency, with at least 2,000 donations lost by donor room closures and the cancellation of blood drives. 

San Antonio Metro Health on Tuesday declared a blood emergency in the city, meaning there is not enough blood on hand to treat trauma cases and patients who need emergency surgeries and procedures that require blood. 

The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, a subsidiary of nonprofit BioBridge Global, is asking donors to give when able to do so safely at its Donor Pavilion, Shavano Park and Northeast donor rooms. Those facilities are open during daylight hours Tuesday and Wednesday, but all blood drives have been canceled and the other donor rooms are not open. 

Same-day appointments and walk-in donations are being accepted. Donors can call 210-731-5590 for information or to make an appointment, or they can visit SouthTexasBlood.org. 

As the weather improves, the center expects to extend operating hours at all donor rooms Thursday-Sunday. 

All donors will receive a $20 Amazon gift card through Sunday, Feb. 21, as well as donor reward points. 

The center will be adding appointments this week as it works to rebuild the blood supply. All donors are asked to keep their appointments or call 210-731-5590 to reschedule and open a time for someone else to give. 

Severe weather closes blood donor rooms, forces cancellation of drives

South Texas Blood & Tissue Center will need to make up almost 1,000 lost donations when conditions improve

All South Texas Blood & Tissue Center donor rooms will be closed on Monday, Feb. 15 and all blood drives that day will be canceled because of the severe winter weather across South Texas.

But the need for blood is as strong as ever, boosted by the potential for auto accidents on icy roads and streets.

The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, a subsidiary of San Antonio nonprofit BioBridge Global, will need to make up almost 1,000 donations lost during several days of severe weather to keep up with the needs of patients in South Texas.

When the blood and tissue center re-opens donor rooms and drives, all donors will receive a $20 Amazon gift card through Sunday, Feb. 21, as well as donor reward points.

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

The center also will be accepting walk-in donors as space allows. The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center continues to follow all safety protocols for COVID-19, including social distancing in waiting areas and donation rooms, required wearing of masks at all times and sanitizing donor beds after each donation.

“Severe weather across the country has decimated the nation’s blood supply,” said Adrienne Mendoza, Vice President of Blood Services at the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center. “That shortage includes South Texas.

“The severe weather events turned an already dangerously low blood inventory into a potential healthcare crisis.”

Because of the blood shortage, the center has been forced to work with hospitals to evaluate which patients receive blood transfusions.

“We’re concerned that the dwindling blood supply will prevent patients from receiving blood when they need it” Mendoza said. “It is our mission to help save lives and we can only do that through the generosity of blood donors and the support of the community.”

The blood and tissue center will be adding appointments this week as it works to re-build the blood supply. All donors are asked to keep their appointments or call 210-731-5590 to reschedule and open a time for someone else to give.