INOVA Health is holding a blood drive Saturday at Nationals Park as hospitals and blood banks across the country face a blood shortage because of the pandemic.
Blood donation drives were cancelled at the height of the pandemic, leading to a dramatic drop in blood supply.
Heather Wade, who works with INOVA blood donor services, says that for every person who donates blood, three lives are saved.
“You may never meet that patient,” Wade said. “But there is a family who is beyond grateful that you have saved their loved one.”
Donors can give blood regardless of their vaccination status and whether or not they’ve had COVID-19, according to Wade. The goal of the drive is to draw 650 units of blood, which would benefit close to 2,000 people.
Rodrigo Valderrama, a 32-year-old man from Arlington, was infected with COVID-19 at a housewarming party in March of 2020. Though everyone at the party fell ill, Valderrama was the only one who was hospitalized and hooked up to a ventilator in the ICU.
“I told my cousin, ‘Don’t worry if I’m going to get it. I know it’s not going to hurt me or anything,’” Valderrama said.
But Valderrama spent five weeks in a medically-induced coma at INOVA Fairfax Hospital fighting for his life.
“My chances of life were super, super low because my kidneys was in trouble,” Valderrama said. “My liver was in trouble. My lungs. The only organ that didn’t fail was my heart.”
Doctors gave him convalescent plasma from a donor, one of the first transfusions of its kind in the country. His condition began to improve. Now, Valderrama has made a full recovery.
He is giving back to his community by donating blood -- just as he has every month since October.
“I need to give it back because they gave me a second chance of life,” Valderrama said. “I try and tell people and encourage them to go. People from my work, people from my school, from everywhere that I just try to reach a lot of people all the time.”
The INOVA blood donation drive at Nationals Park is Saturday, July 24, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Donors are asked to make an appointment ahead of time, but walk-ins will not be turned away. Remember to bring a photo ID. Any healthy adult can donate.