Every two seconds, someone in the United States requires a blood transfusion. And it is in large part thanks to the pioneering research of Dr. Charles Drew, whose revolutionary work changed the landscape of blood collection and storage and, historians say, saved the lives of millions of soldiers in WWII, that today we have blood banks in our communities to help people when they need blood to live.
“He was a giant in our industry,” said OneBlood Chief Technical Officer Dr. Mike Pratt, who also describes Drew’s research as forming the basis for what would later become cross-matching compatibility testing, which is used in blood banks all over the world today. But it is for what Dr. Charles Drew did for blood stabilization and preservation that his work’s legacy endures today.
It was Seafair weekend, 1975. Graphic artist Steve Skramstad, then 22, came home to his apartment to find his friend rummaging around in the kitchen, probably looking for food. But something was off.
His friend hadn’t been expecting him home and, confused, he became frantic to leave. “He wasn’t in his right mind,” Steve remembers. “He was embarrassed and struck out in desperation to get out of my apartment. I got in the way.”
In the tussle that ensued, Steve’s friend grabbed the six-inch Finnish-style filet knife on the counter and stabbed it deep into Steve’s chest. His friend fled, leaving Steve in the kitchen to call 911 himself, the blade still jabbing out of his ribcage.
Not every professional conference begins with a large portion of the audience in tears. But that’s how Bloodworks Northwest’s fourth-annual Northwest Transfusion Symposium began on June 28, as 28-year-old former leukemia patient William Harper told his harrowing story of getting cancer in Senegal in 2010 and needing 267 blood transfusions and 33 surgeries in the years since then to survive.