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Kroc School Alum Helps to Secure Critical Blood Donations During COVID-19

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The following post was contributed by Michael Duffey '17 (MA) Mobile Planning and Scheduling Coordinator at Miller-Keystone Blood Center and an alumnus of the Kroc School Master's in Peace and Justice program.

With the COVID-19 outbreak in full swing and being an employee at Miller-Keystone Blood Center, I find myself with a unique view and perspective of the effects of the pandemic. I’m not a frontline medical worker, emergency response member, or even in a position to be required to leave my home. Truth be told, I’ve spent the greater part of the past month working remotely, in my sweatpants, with a warm cup of espresso and my dog in my lap.

Miller-Keystone Blood Center (MKBC) is headquartered in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, about 80 miles west of New York City and 60 miles north of Philadelphia. Needless to say, we’re in close proximity to the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States. We are the sole blood provider to 29 hospitals in Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. In my position with MKBC, I work with a team of account managers and plan blood drives throughout eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey. My primary responsibility is making sure they are economical and proving enough blood for our hospital partners. Behind the scenes, I help guide our team in raising awareness of the need and impact of blood donation by targeting key groups (such as schools, churches, etc.).

The work my team has done in the past month has been incredible to say the least. Before the chaos even began, our nation faced a chronic blood shortage. It’s not an exaggeration to say that at any given time we were one major catastrophe away from exhausting our blood stores. So, facing the prospect of our dedicated donors being forced to stay home, and thus our blood supply running out, the team at MKBC sprang into action by alerting the media, adjusting our procedures to make blood donation as safe as possible, and cementing our relationships with dedicated partners.

Within a week of the stay-at-home orders being issued, we saw our media exposure rise to a level we have never seen before. Everyone from the local newspapers, to the New York Times, to CNN began stressing the need for blood during this critical time. As a result we are seeing blood donation surpassing that of the days after 9/11. Because of this, hospitals have not had to cancel life-sustaining surgeries, the survival rates of premature babies has remained level, and we’ve even been able to assist the New York Blood Bank, which is struggling right now due COVID-19. Quite frankly, it’s been a miracle.

Perhaps the most impactful thing to come out of the dedicated donor response is our ability to participate in convalescent plasma donation. Convalescent donation is the donation of plasma by those who have survived COVID-19. Their blood contains the anti-bodies to fight the virus. So if this plasma is given to someone infected, it will boost their immune system and assist them in recovering. Just last week our first convalescent donation occurred. The plasma went to a patient in Florida who we just learned was taken off of ventilation shortly after receiving treatment and is expected to make a full recovery.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak my role has shifted to informing people about the importance of convalescent plasma donation and how it gives antibodies to those fighting COVID-19 currently. With blood donation being at an all-time high, I’ve stepped into more of a planning and management role in helping plan and control the distribution of blood products to hospitals and by charting out the course for our blood center once the COVID-19 crises has ended.

I take enormous pride in my team and our work these past few weeks. It’s been humbling to see our nation respond to the blood need. It makes me feel like we are truly in this together. As we come out of the pandemic, we are continuing our efforts to bring in new donors each day. The key now is to ride this momentum and keep this level of donation going. So please, continue donating blood even after times of crisis! If we can do that, we could be looking at a world with no blood shortages.

Peacebuilding comes in many forms, and all are needed. Ready to shape a more peaceful and just society? Explore the Kroc School's graduate programs.

Contact:

Justin Prugh
jprugh@sandiego.edu
(619) 260-7573

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