In December, Amarillo VA held a VA 4th Mission blood drive to aid the Texas Panhandle’s severely depleted blood supply. More than 130 VA employees, Veterans and community members stepped up to donate.

In Texas, VA health care systems – including Amarillo VA – came to the aid of overwhelmed community hospitals. VA employees staffed Intensive Care Unit beds, cared for both COVID-19 and non-COVID civilian patients and administered vaccinations. They also provided personal protection equipment and other medical supplies and equipment in short supply.

“When my dad was alive, he had surgery and needed a blood transfusion,” said Chief Quality Officer Jinjer Mitchell, who felt compelled to donate because of this family crisis. “If he hadn’t received the blood, I may not have had my dad for as long as I did. It is life changing for the people who need it.”

Due to COVID-19, the nation’s blood supply is critically low. From December 2021 to March 2022, VA health care systems across the country have and will hold Fourth Mission Blood Drives to help restock the nation’s blood supply within their local communities.

1000 donations needed every day

According to the Red Cross, more than 1,000 additional blood donations are needed every day to end the severe blood shortage.

In response, Amarillo VA is conducting regular 4th Mission Blood Drives to help restock the local blood supply.

Mark Rielo is one of the more than 130 VA employees who donated blood.

Pamela Hembree is a CT technologist with Amarillo VA. She has been donating blood since she’s been old enough to donate and knows how important the blood supply is.

“I was a trauma tech for years,” Hembree said. “I have watched the need for blood come in the front door and saw the lack of blood being donated, so I have firsthand experience seeing that need.”

Associate Director Mark Rielo underlined how VA’s 4th Mission ensures continued service to Veterans – as well as support for national, state and local emergency management, public health, safety and homeland security efforts.

“VA is usually viewed as focusing only on Veteran health care,” Rielo said. “However, COVID-19 has again demonstrated the important role VA plays when the community is in need. These blood drives are a small but crucial way for us to help the community and let them know VA will always be there for them.”

In 1982, Congress enacted the VA/Department of Defense (DoD) Health Resources Sharing and Emergency Operation Act. This act created a fourth primary VA service – or Fourth Mission – for the Department of Veteran Affairs. The intent was to use VA’s vast health care network for the Department of Defense. It also bolstered US preparedness to respond to war, terrorism, national emergencies and natural disasters.

The importance of the 4th Mission became evident in early 2020. The COVID-19 virus overran community medical facilities and took an enormous toll on health care workers across the country.

Trisha Reid, Center for Development and Civic Engagement Voluntary Service representative, has been organizing the blood drives for the past five years.

Value the opportunity to give back to our community

“The Amarillo VA Health Care System has partnered with Coffee Memorial Blood Center for the past 19 years to support our community by hosting blood drives at our facility,” Reid said. “We have seen our donation numbers double over the years. These numbers show how much our VA employees and executive leadership team support and value the opportunity to give back to our community.”

The Amarillo VA Health Care System will be hosting the next Fourth Mission Blood Drive on Feb. 25 at its campuses in Amarillo and Lubbock.

For the latest news and event information, follow the Amarillo VA Health Care System on Facebook @VAAmarillo.

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