The next time you’re ready to curse the narrow, cobblestoned streets of Boston while driving, imagine being Andre Seale. Starting next month, he’ll be navigating them in a 42-foot-long vehicle with the most precious of all resources aboard: donated blood.
Seale will be behind the wheel of the new Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Brigham and Women’s Hospital Blood Mobile, which will expand the organizations’ ability to conduct blood drives throughout the greater Boston area.
“Now we can have a blood drive anywhere that has a wide enough area for us to park in,” explains Seale. “I also won’t need to lug around equipment, because it’s all on board.”
People with cancer and other patients—such as trauma victims and babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)— often need blood transfusions to replace blood lost during bleeding, surgery, or due to the impact of chemotherapy or radiation on blood-producing bone marrow.
Judith Wallace, MSM, administrative director for the Joint Program in Transfusion Medicine at Dana-Farber and BWH, says about 30,000 units of blood are needed each year to serve all the patients at both institutions—and about 45 percent of that goes to oncology patients. “We collect from 3,500-4,500 units a year, year after year, or about 10-15 percent of our needs.”
Wallace hopes that the new Blood Mobile, complete with its five donor beds, three screening rooms, and additional space, will allow more organizations to host blood drives and increase the number of units collected.
“Being able to take the Blood Mobile out to sites makes us more accessible,” says Malissa Lichtenwalter, supervisor of blood donor recruitment. “Additionally, we hope people will see the vehicle parked in front of buildings and think, ‘We should have a blood drive too.’”
The Blood Mobile was purchased through funds raised by the Friends of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and its sister volunteer fundraising organization, the Friends of Brigham and Women’s Hospital.