Mercy Fort Smith Lauds National Blood Donor Month

January 21, 2020

January is National Blood Donor month, and patients at Mercy Hospital Fort Smith continue to be able to show their thanks to those who donate.

Mercy Fort Smith and the Arkansas Blood Institute (5300 S. U St., Fort Smith) partnered up in 2019 to allow area blood recipients to say “thank you” anonymously to a donor whose blood was used during a procedure. The Thank-The-Donor program is a free service that lets patients send a personal message either online or with a handwritten card.

The messages have touched both blood donors and Mercy co-workers alike.

“We get feedback occasionally, so that’s good. We don’t expect everybody to do it, but it’s nice to see those cards,” said Dixie Parker, lead medical technologist at Mercy Fort Smith. “It’s just nice to know it makes a difference in their treatment.”

Patients can access Thank-The-Donor by utilizing cards made available to them at Mercy Fort Smith or through the Thank-The-Donor website (thankthedonor.org) or app. Mercy has given out more than 1,000 Thank-The-Donor cards to patients since the program launched last year, said Kim Plake, director of laboratory services at Mercy Hospital Fort Smith.

Patients and their families have utilized Thank-The-Donor often since the program was first announced last May. Their ways of saying “thank you” can range from a short note to photos and more. One “thank you” simple stated, “Thank you for the gift of life” and included a photo of the blood unit being used for a patient while a transfusion was taking place. Parents often say thank you for blood that helps their newborn child who’s spending their first days at the hospital’s NICU.

“It’s pretty rewarding, and I think to this group here who does a lot of the testing behind the scenes, they never even see the patient,” Plake said. “Nurses are at the beside and they see the patients and how grateful they are, but to hear that they contributed by connecting a product to a patient, that’s pretty cool.

“I think for us (in the lab), it’s just our little piece of that program,” Plake continued. “A lot of times, we’re just getting a little grateful ‘thank you.’”

Plake and others at Mercy Fort Smith’s laboratory believe donors may be inspired when they receive messages directly from patients who have benefited from their donation.

“It may even encourage you to give again, if you’re getting that response back,” Plake said. “You see that you make a difference, you may even give again.”

Even though lab workers are a behind-the-scenes part of health care, they still maintain an interest in the patients who come through the hospital.

“With the automation in other areas, we may not even see a name,” Plake said. “But when we see patients in blood bank and we see their name from week to week … maybe we don’t know them personally, but we find the connection. Just seeing their name repetitively, we hope and pray our patients do well, (but) we’re hearing a small part of their story.”

Patients who receive blood at Mercy Fort Smith can vary greatly, from chemotherapy or trauma patients to those being treated in the neurology department. It’s not unusual for patients to require 20-30 units of blood during a procedure, Parker said. A trauma patient can require an even hirer number, up to 45 units.

Each person’s blood has a specific genetic type, Parker explained, so some donors could be asked to donate again if they match up well with a particular patient. Group of donors with rare blood types may be asked to donate again because of the need for their specific blood type.

Plake lauded Mercy Fort Smith’s partnership with ABI and said the hospital “can really count on them to get those supplies we need.” Patients should feel confident that blood requirements will be met at Mercy Fort Smith, she said.

However, the need for donors will continue.

“We still need donors, for sure,” Plake said. “We encourage everybody to give, if they’re able to, as often as they can, to really support the needs of Mercy and the entire community.”

How Thank-the-Donor works:

  • Using a smart phone, tablet or computer, visit thankthedonor.org. 
  • Follow the step-by-step instructions.
  • Enter a message of thanks. The donor will receive an email with the message attached.
  • Patient and donor privacy is completely protected in the process.
  • The patient also can send a note of thanks to the hospital with a handwritten card.
Mercy Fort Smith lab workers provide a behind-the-scenes service for patients. Co-workers include Anthony Nguyen, from left, David Hudson with Arkansas Blood Institute, Dixie Parker, Beth Stransky, Hannah McGowin and Drew Davis.
Mercy Fort Smith lab workers provide a behind-the-scenes service for patients. Co-workers include Anthony Nguyen, from left, David Hudson with Arkansas Blood Institute, Dixie Parker, Beth Stransky, Hannah McGowin and Drew Davis.