LEONARDTOWN, Md. – In partnership with the American Red Cross, MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital recently hosted its first blood drive since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Twenty pints of blood were collected May 13 from community members and hospital staff.

Community blood drives, like so many events, were placed on hold during COVID-19. Meanwhile, blood transfusions continue to be needed by patients every two seconds in the U.S., according to the American Red Cross—amounting to nearly 21 million blood component transfusions each year.

Hospital staff recently proposed an idea that would allow blood drives to safely resume while making use of the auxiliary buildings constructed on campus last year in case of patient surge. Large enough to ensure safe physical distancing and protected from the elements, these structures allow for even more donations to be collected—from four people at a time, compared to one or two when drives are set up in hospital classrooms or other locations.

“Having these structures available allowed us to welcome donors back safely at a time when blood is especially needed,” said Stephen Michaels, MD, chief operating officer and chief medical officer, MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital.

With initial appointments filling quickly, the Red Cross was able to add more slots to accommodate donors, including hospital associates. Shannon Lund, who works in the finance department, was among the day’s first participants. “When COVID first started, like many of us, I was looking for ways to give back,” said Shannon. “There weren’t any blood drives then—nothing nearby. I’ve always wanted to donate blood, knowing how much it’s needed. This seemed like a great opportunity.”

Bregetta McWilliams-Givens, who also works in finance, was excited to walk over for a good cause. “It’s been an easy process to donate,” she said.

Keith Jones, director of the hospital’s Facilities department, rolled up his sleeve at lunchtime. This was his first blood donation since his family—including his wife, an emergency nurse—relocated to Maryland last year. “We know how important it is to donate,” said Keith, especially with his own versatile blood type. “I’m glad to do it.”

MedStar St. Mary’s will next host a blood drive on Wednesday, June 30, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call Health Connections at 301-475-6019 to make your appointment. Visit RedCrossBlood.org for additional dates and locations.