Timing is Everything for Leichtenberg
December 29, 2017
HURON, S.D. – As Donna Leichtenberg reflects upon the last 22 years, she recalls the many changes she’s witnessed as blood donor coordinator for Huron Regional Medical Center’s blood bank and the one thing that has remained the same.
“Since I started this job, testing and transportation costs have grown astronomically. We used to test our own blood but now all testing goes to Des Moines or Davenport, Iowa.” says Leichtenberg, who has worked as a Medical Lab Technician at HRMC since May 1989. “But one thing that has remained the same is the commitment and extreme generosity of our local blood donors.”
It was her concern for those donors and her 62nd birthday that led Leichtenberg to make the decision to retire from her position as blood donor coordinator at the hospital. “We have a very faithful pool of donors who have given of themselves for so many years but because of age, medication, health issues and people moving, the number of available regular donors has shrunk – which has put more pressure on the remaining donors,” explained Leichtenberg. “For me, it is time to not just think about the well-being of our patients, but also being a good steward of the generous donations of our long-time, regular blood donors.”
In her 22 plus years of coordinating the blood donation at HRMC, more than17,300 units of blood have been drawn and used to meet the needs of patients at HRMC.
Leichtenberg began her career at HRMC as an evening lab tech. When it came time for her kids to start school in 1996, she applied for the blood donor coordinator position.
“The timing allowed me to be more available for my growing family by working while they were at school and being home in the evenings,” said Leichtenberg. One of the things she is most proud of is that both her children, Kendall and April, grew up to become blood donors for HRMC joining Leichtenberg and her husband Steve – making blood donation a family affair.
Over the years she’s seen the number of units of blood used for transfusions at HRMC go from 1,000 units 20 years ago to around 400 units per year. Leichtenberg explained. “We are the only hospital of our size who still collects our own donors. All of the hospitals in South Dakota utilize the services of regional or national blood centers.”
HRMC’s blood bank, which was established in 1956, has been partnering with LifeServe Blood Center since 2005 for donor testing and supplemental blood when the amount or type of blood couldn’t be collected locally. The timing of Leichtenberg’s retirement provides HRMC an opportunity to evaluate how blood supply is managed and consider partnering with LifeServe to be the hospital’s exclusive blood product supplier.
“My hope as I retire is that even more of the community will become involved in donating blood by participating in local and area blood drives hosted by LifeServe, which are planned to begin in January,” Leichtenberg, who’s last day is January 3, said. “People live such busy lives today, setting a donation appointment every eight weeks just isn’t realistic for many. Blood drives are a convenient way for many people to come together and share of themselves for the sake of others.”
Since blood drawn by LifeServe Blood Center stays regionally, donors who participate in the Iowa-based company’s blood drives can rest assured their donations benefit people in their own community.
“Blood donors are ordinary people with extraordinary hearts who give freely of their time and themselves,” said Leichtenberg, “I am so thankful for all of my donors and will miss seeing each of you! Together we made a difference in someone’s life.”
In the interim, LifeServe has agreed to assist with local blood donations as HRMC evaluates the benefits of being part of a regional collection service as opposed to a sole collection site. HRMC blood donors will receive a letter from Leichtenberg explaining their options for future local blood donation through LifeServe’s mobile unit. Maintaining connections with local donors including local donor recognition will continue to be important.
UPDATE: The hospital board of directors voted in January to partner with LifeServe Blood Center to collect blood regionally through community blood drives. The first blood drive is scheduled for Tuesday, February 20, 11:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the HRMC Physicians Clinic (located south of the hospital). For details or to schedule an appointment, click here.
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