San Antonio firefighters donate their own blood to save lives

Retired firefighter hosts blood drive to help patients in need

SAN ANTONIO – They’re the first on the scene at major trauma events and this weekend, San Antonio firefighters, EMS and police officers were the first in line to give back to the community by donating blood.

Conrad Gonzales, a retired San Antonio firefighter, felt he needed to step up when he heard that the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center’s blood supply continues to be at an all-time low, due to the pandemic.

“I thought, you know, let’s get the firefighters (and) make this, like, a first annual first responder blood drive,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales reached out to Christy Cracraft, a supervisor at STBTC, to plan the Battle of the Badges Blood Drive, a two-day event hosted at the San Antonio Fire Department’s Union Hall.

“I feel like by leading the way, that we get a better community response,” Cracraft said.

According to STBTC, blood drives provide about 70% of the community supply. However, due to COVID-19, those numbers have declined rapidly and drastically.

“For the month of September, we were down a little over 4,000 units (of blood),” Cracraft said. “We are tracking that way right now for October as well.”

During his time as a firefighter, Gonzales has witnessed the effect of blood supply on the patients he’s helped save.

“When I worked as a paramedic, as a firefighter, as a flight paramedic on a helicopter, (we would) see the need (when) these people are hemorrhaging,” Gonzales said. “They need blood and they need it now.”

This weekend’s goal was of about 80 blood units, an amount that although large, can be used faster than it is donated.

“An entire day’s drive can go to supply just one trauma patient, and we’ve got hospitals that are taking care of our cancer patients, trauma patients,” Cracraft said. “We had four traumas and a transplant (this past week) that just really wiped us out.”

Which is why Cracraft said efforts like Gonzales' are crucial to blood banks and hospitals.

The STBTC hopes more agencies, organizations and businesses are encouraged to host an indoor or outdoor blood drive in the near future to help meet the demand for blood units.

For more information on how to host a blood drive, call STBTC at 210-757-9505.

To find a local blood drive and schedule a donation at STBTC, click here.

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