Blood donors needed with influx of visitors arriving for solar eclipse

Current low blood supply means banks can only prepare so much in the event of traumatic injury or accident

SAN ANTONIO – Jay Gabrelcik donates blood and platelets for a special reason.

“My maternal grandmother passed away from cancer at age 43, and so that’s the big driver,” he said.

Gabrelcik was at the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center Monday donating platelets.

“This is the first time I’ve done a back-to-back. So this was seven days ago. It’s platelets, so you can do that every seven days,” Gabrelcik said.

Gabrelcik knows he’s helping the community, but what he didn’t know was that his blood may help people visiting South Texas from other states and countries.

The total solar eclipse is bringing thousands and thousands of people to smaller communities like those in the hill country.

That increases the number of potential accidents or traumatic injuries, and medical centers want to be ready.

“There are some, strategic locations where blood will be pre-positioned,” said William Bullock, who is the Specialized Program Coordinator for the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center.

South Texas Blood and Tissue Center supports 48 counties and over 100 medical centers.

The nonprofit can only pre-plan so much since its inventory is already extremely low following Spring Break and other events that drain the supply.

Still, South Texas Blood and Tissue Center has multiple transportation modes ready with partners across the state.

“The gridlock is going to be almost inevitable. If there’s a large event and we have difficulty getting there with the ground units, we can get the blood there via the helicopter,” Bullock said.

Coordinators like Bullock are also keeping in mind all the local cancer or sickle cell patients who depend on their routine procedures.

“Those patients out there need their standard processes. Regular medical care is going to go on and will be expected. It’s a balancing act for sure,” Bullock said.

The main problem isn’t coordination, it’s supply.

At the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center inventory area, it’s easy to see the supply is low. It’s especially low for O-negative, which is the universal blood type. So they’re depending on donors like Gabrelcik.

“It feels good to help out. I guess I’m making a small dent,” he said.

Bullock said it’s a huge dent, and he’s confident the community will step up in the next week.

" I can’t brag on our donors enough. The whole South Texas area is just sensational. It really makes me proud to be, San Antonio resident and the whole South Texas region. We really take care of one another,” Bullock said.

There is also an incentive to donate. If you donate within the next week, you’ll receive the STBTC’s very special 50th anniversary Fiesta medal.

To make a donation appointment, head to the website.

About the Authors

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.

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