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  • 07/29/2020 4:59 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by David Therkelsen

    Two prominent physicians spoke to Red Cross retirees via Zoom on July 17, reviewing current blood banking issues, and especially the impact of COVID-19 on the blood supply and on therapeutic practices. We heard from Pampee Young, MD, PhD, chief medical officer at American Red Cross, and Jeff McCullough, MD, now a transfusion medicine consultant but once Red Cross’ senior vice president for Biomedical Services.

    Dr. McCullough led off with a discussion of changing transfusion practices, and how they have affected the blood supply, and the financial soundness, of American Red Cross and other blood banking organizations. He said that as far back as the 1950s, Mayo Clinic had determined that a patient undergoing general anesthesia should have a hemoglobin level of 10 grams per deciliter; below that a transfusion should be given. Over time that became the standard for all procedures.

    But about 15 years ago doctors and scientists began to question that standard, and determined that patient hemoglobin levels as low as 7 or 8 were safe for medical procedures, without administering blood. Very quickly, blood transfusions fell off. This was a good thing for patients, Dr. McCullough said, but not so good for the financial health of blood centers; they found they could not reduce costs as quickly as demand for blood was falling.

    Still, even with blood demand falling, there is still plenty of need. From a peak of about 16 million units of blood donated in 2008, hospitals and their patients still need about 12 million units to be donated annually.

    Dr. Young then spoke about the current experience of American Red Cross. She described how, in the early weeks of COVID-19 response, Red Cross lost access to huge numbers of donors because normal collections sites – companies, schools, churches – were closed. In March and April, 14,000 blood drives were canceled and 400,000 planned units went uncollected; Red Cross was able to collect just 53% of its goal.  Fortunately blood utilization was also down, but not as sharply. By mid-May, blood usage had surged above pre-COVID levels.

    As collections rebound, Red Cross, like virtually all public-facing entities stepped up its cleaning procedures, began doing temperature checks of all employees, donors and volunteers, and imposed its own form of social distancing by requiring appointments for all blood donations, thereby smoothing out the flow of donors.

    Dr. Young then spoke about the central role Red Cross is playing in providing COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma – CCP. This involves collecting plasma from donors who have recovered from COVID, for transfusion to current patients. Antibodies in these donors’ plasma may, in current patients, prevent the virus from replication. Red Cross is identifying suitable donors, collecting and distributing blood, within FDA guidelines.

    The early clinical experience with CCP use is encouraging, and scientific studies, while not yet numerous or methodologically robust, are also promising. In fact, doctors treating COVID-19 patients are ordering CCP in high enough quantities that shortages may occur in the very near future. Dr. Young said this is a large concern for ARC, because for the treatment to work patients need CCP to be administered early in their therapy.

    There followed a vigorous Q&A period, including cameo appearances by Dr. Lew Barker, head of American Red Cross Blood Services in the 1970s and 80s, and Dr. Gerald Sandler, also a senior physician at Red Cross.

     If you were not able to join the webinar you can click here to listen to an audio recording. 

  • 06/30/2020 2:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Living Life with Purpose and Vitality in Challenging Times:  Dr. Jelena Kecmanovic, PhD., shared ways to strengthen our psychological resilience and perhaps even grow during these unprecedented times of the Coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Kecmanovic is the Founder and Director, Arlington/DC Behavior Therapy Institute and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University.

    Here are several takeaways from the presentation provided by Patricia Clark, the Chair of the Program Committee of the Greater Washington/Baltimore ARCRA Group:

    • We have been thrown out of our “everydayness”.  So many things have changed.  It is not surprising that a person might feel anxious or worried or stressed.  In fact, it is very normal.  It is not something to feel guilty about or apologize for.  We have experienced multiple losses:  schedules, routines, social interactions, building relationships, maintaining relationships, anticipated current and future plans, distancing from children/grandchildren and, for some, loss of health.  There is no need to feel guilty about your feelings.
    • This situation also provides us with some great opportunities to use these changes to learn more about ourselves and to reflect and grow, find ways to appreciate the “new” normal and to identify and name things we are grateful for.  This can be a discipline—and it is helpful to do it routinely.  Pick a time (before bed, first thing in the morning, etc.) and take time to identify three to five things for which you are grateful.  This is a surprisingly effective exercise.  These can be big or small things—but it is helpful to identify and think about them.
    •  Something that is helpful is to find a way to “contain or manage” your worry or anxiousness and not let it rule your day.  One technique is to create a Worry Jar—or it could be a list on paper or on your phone.  Every time you find yourself thinking about something that bothers or worries you, write the thought on a piece of paper.  Put it in the jar.  Schedule 30 minutes each day to go through the jar and worry over everything in it.  Then—at the end of that time—allow yourself to move back into a less emotionally burdensome mind-set.  You are not ignoring your worries.  They are important and you made time for them, but they do not creep into your life constantly.  You are controlling your response to them.
    • Another helpful approach is to use the concept of mindfulness.  While this started in many of the ancient religions and practices, it has become a growing area of emphasis in our society.  Many meditation courses and writings abound and the practice of yoga incorporates mindfulness.  The concept is to quiet yourself and be very purposeful and deliberate in focusing on the present moment—not what happened earlier or what else is going on around you or what might happen in the future.  This can be sitting quietly, doing breathing exercises, getting lost in some beautiful music—whatever focuses you on the here and now.
    • Writing is something that many people find helpful.  Keep a journal and put your thoughts down on paper or take a creative approach and convert them into a prayer or a poem or freestyle verse.

    It is possible to come out of this situation knowing more about yourself and finding helpful ways to grow and learn.  Remember the importance of self-compassion.  We all are dealing with some very unique and challenging times.

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