Blood drive coordinators encouraged by Lawrence’s dedicated donor pool amid shortages, but there’s room for growth

photo by: LMH Health

LMH Health, 325 Maine St., is pictured in May 2021.

With blood shortages a much more frequent occurrence throughout the past year for LMH Health’s blood supplier, local blood drive coordinators are encouraged by the dedication of Lawrence’s donor pool — but they also say there’s room for growth.

On four occasions in the past year, the Community Blood Center of Greater Kansas City has announced a shortage in its supply of donated blood. The Community Blood Center provides more than 90% of the blood used by more than 60 area hospitals, including LMH Health, and the center most recently announced a blood emergency earlier this month.

That was the latest in a series of emergencies dating back to last December. Similar announcements came in May and August of this year. A blood emergency means the region’s blood supply is at a one- to two-day level rather than at the center’s ideal five- to seven-day level.

LMH Health has been lucky enough to avoid any outsized effects from those shortages, save for one recent example.

“We’ve been pretty fortunate; we’ve not been denied blood products very often,” LMH Health’s blood bank supervisor, Faith Friesen, told the Journal-World Friday. “But we did (have an issue) just this last weekend when we put in an order. Even for (Type A Positive), which is a very common blood type, they weren’t completely able to fulfill our order because of the shortage. We only got part of what we ordered on that.”

Friesen last spoke to the Journal-World about the state of the hospital’s blood supply in January, about a month removed from the December blood emergency announcement. Friesen said LMH Health gave 1,409 red blood cell units, 89 plasma units and 119 platelet units to patients last year, compared with 945 red blood cell units, 52 plasma units and 58 platelet units so far in 2022.

A lack of new donors was cited as a cause of this month’s blood emergency, and Kim Clark, a donor recruitment account manager with the Community Blood Center, told the Journal-World that there’s still some concern about how long the existing donor pool can keep carrying the load.

“Donors can donate every 56 days, to be exact, whole blood,” Clark said. “The same donor pool, there’s people that love to come donate blood every time, and they do. They’ll show up at (LMH Health) every blood donation. Somebody could donate whole blood up to six times per year, but we feel like that donor pool is getting burdened and trying to pick up the slack for everyone, so they might be fatigued a little bit.”

But it doesn’t seem like frequent donors in Lawrence are losing any steam. Friesen said the hospital’s blood drives at its west campus on Rock Chalk Drive have seen steady growth. In fact, appointments for both campuses tend to be almost entirely booked in advance of drives, she said. So far this year, Clark added, nearly 800 units of donations have been collected at LMH drives.

That’s looking like it’ll be the case yet again for a pair of upcoming blood drives on LMH Health’s main site and west campus in early November. There were just 12 open slots left for the west campus drive and seven for the main site as of Friday afternoon.

“Lawrence is very altruistic, and I’ve found that we do have blood drives all over and people do come out,” Clark said. “It’s pretty amazing to me; I keep saying they never cease to amaze me. Last time, we collected 177 (units) in September in two days, and right now, if everybody shows up, we’ll collect well over 200 (units) over those two days (in November).”

But there are still ways to expand the local donor pool even further. Lately, the Community Blood Center has been making a push to encourage more platelet donations, a process that is a bit more involved than a typical blood donation. Platelets are more fragile, short-lived components of blood that are essential for normal blood clotting, and they’re often used to treat cancer patients or accident victims. They’re one of three particular blood components — along with plasma or red blood cells — that donors can give alone or in whatever combination is most needed by patients with a matching blood type.

Donating platelets takes longer — roughly two hours — and that means donors can’t give them at mobile drives and will instead need to schedule an appointment at one of the Community Blood Center’s neighborhood donation locations. Lawrence’s donation center has been shuttered for a while, but there are seven others throughout the region — the closest ones in Topeka and Olathe.

Clark said there’s also been a continued push to attract younger donors; for Lawrence, that means University of Kansas students. Clark said the center has been hosting monthly blood drives on KU’s campus at locations like Allen Fieldhouse in partnership with Kansas Athletics. This year to date, drives at the fieldhouse have resulted in 396 units of blood. KU also operates some student-coordinated drives outside of that partnership, and Clark said those have collected an additional 208 units of blood. The next drive on campus is set for Dec. 1.

“But when you think about the number of students on campus, you feel like there ought to be a larger number that we could get at a university that size,” Friesen added.

Drawing younger donors — or just new donors in general — could get a boost thanks to the center’s healthier budget since the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Clark said that would allow the Community Blood Center to offer more incentives for donors, like pizza and a T-shirt at future KU blood drives. Donors at the center’s January drives will walk away with a Kansas City Chiefs shirt, thanks to a partnership between the center and the NFL franchise. The center also ran a “Pint for a Pint” campaign in August, during which all donors received a voucher to redeem for a free or discounted pint of beer, cider, wine or soft drink at a local participating brewery or restaurant.

It’s obvious that the number of first-time donors is already seeing some growth from drive to drive, Clark said, and she noted that Lawrence donors do make a significant impact whenever the supply begins to dwindle.

“Out of my territory, probably 20% to 30% of the blood supply comes from Lawrence, so that’s pretty cool for Lawrence donors,” Clark said. “They hear the action and they step up.”

Two Community Blood Center mobile drives are set in coming days for Lawrence, and others will take place later in November and in December:

• Thursday, Nov. 3, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at LMH West, 6265 Rock Chalk Drive.

• Friday, Nov. 4, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at LMH Health, 325 Maine St.

• Sunday, Nov. 20, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Eudora United Methodist Church, 2084 North 1300 Road in Eudora.

• Tuesday, Nov. 29, from noon to 5 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 946 Vermont St.

• Thursday, Dec. 1, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on KU’s campus at Capitol Federal Hall, 1654 Naismith Drive.

Those interested in donating blood can sign up for an appointment at, where they can find a donor center or blood drive by visiting the “DONATE NOW” tab and typing in their ZIP code. Prospective donors can also contact Clark by phone at 816-315-1389 or email at for help with finding and making an appointment.


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