PHILLIPSBURG, Mont. -- Blood is the only substance that humans cannot replicate. If you need more, someone has to donate it. Over the past few months, our health agencies in Montana have been sounding the alarm about a blood shortage and the limited staff to collect it.
And that's where this story begins. Recently, a viewer reached out, saying he wanted to donate blood to help a sick friend. But with limited opening at donation sites, he turned to me, saying "Help Me Ben".
"And then I called St. Pat's, and they said we can't take it because we don't have a place to store it."
You can hear the frustration in Tim Allen's voice.
"I mean, I can't just walk around with buckets of blood" Allen says.
And for him? This blood shortage is personal. According to Tim, his friend Bill Hohler is known for his facial hair, and his goofy and caring personality. Costumes are his trademark, and making people smile. The 64-year old began to feel sick back in October of 2021. Multiple scans and tests later, and Bill found out he had a rare form of T-Cell Lymphoma... cancer.
"They took me down to the ER right away and they said I needed multiple blood transfusions." Hohler says. "And so the doctor order one unit of blood at a time. So the doctor ordered a unit of blood for me. And, he came back in the room and he told me he had ordered the unit of blood, but there is none."
Bill was forced to wait hours for that important blood. Eventually, he received it. But what was suppose to be a routine check up became a five-day stay in the hospital. During that time, Bill also tested positive. He was now fighting COVID and cancer.
"They flat out didn't have any blood." Hohler says. "And that was a pretty big shock to know that you're in the how hospital in ER, and they tell you that you need a blood transfusion, but we don't have any blood. And then for them to come in a half an hour later and tell me that I have COVID and I'm going to ICU."
Bill conquered COVID, and is now isolating at his Phillipsburg home with his wife Sherri. He has needed five blood transfusions, and three rounds of chemotherapy as he fights cancer.
Tim reached out to me, frustrated about not being able to find places locally to donate for Bill. So I went to the company that actually handles the most blood in the state of Montana, Vitalant.
Vitalant Communications Manager Tori Robbins tells me that since the pandemic began, people have been donating less blood than they usually do.
"We strive to have four days on hand." Robbins says. "And when we get into two days or less, that's when that prompts us to use that verbiage of critical."
But in the past few weeks, the state of Montana is actually trending in the right direction when it comes to donations.
"Just Monday, we downgraded from critical to urgent, which means blood donations are going up." Robbins says. "We're getting closer to that four day on hand, but it's that consistent blood donation. That's going to keep us there."
I worked with Robbins, and identified future blood drives that were coming up in Granite County. And on February 10th, I helped Tim and his wife go online, and sign up for a blood drive that will take place in Anaconda on March 29th, put on through Vitalant. Although Bill won't directly get Tim's blood, he will be donating in Bill's honor.
"Every single time you donate blood. It's not even, well, maybe it'll get used. It really truly is saving somebody's life. Every single time." Robbins says.
"I think if, obviously they can't do this, but if you ever knew where your blood was going and knew who it helped and what, what their situation was, I think more people would do it." Hohler tells me. "You know, it doesn't cost you anything other than your time."
If you live in the Granite County community, and would like to sign up for the blood drive in honor of Bill, you can visit Vitalant.org (insert Vitalant.org link here) and go to the donate portal. Once inside the portal, put in your city or zip code, to find the closest blood drive or donation center in your area.
If you don't live in the Granite County community, there are so many ways to give blood to help people like Bill.
Here are some other places in the state of Montana that are now accepting donations of blood and plasma.
American Red Cross: https://www.redcrossblood.org/give.html/find-drive?cid=nonbrand&med=cpc&source=google&scode=RSG00000E017&gclid=CjwKCAiA9aKQBhBREiwAyGP5lXod37H06yhtpPHEReSBayloUunVmjT_s1ba2-BV6FGTMn_7p5lSORoC_5IQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
BioLife Plasma Services: https://www.biolifeplasma.com/
If you have a problem that needs a solution, I want to hear about it. You could be my next "Help Me Ben" story. You can visit our website, MontanaRightNow.com and click on the Help Me Ben tab.