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Veterans, elected officials donate blood to help Las Vegas shooting victims

Courier of Montgomery County

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Conroe, October 7, 2017 | comments
By Meagan Ellsworth
U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, chats with Marine Corps veteran Jeremy Williams while giving blood during the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center's blood drive for victims of Las Vegas on Friday at the Conroe VA Outpatient Clinic. Photo: Michael Minasi, Staff Photographer

U.S. Army veteran Tristan Covington sat in the Conroe Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic Friday ready to serve his community and the Las Vegas shooting victims still fighting for their lives.

"I was shocked," said Covington who was at work when he heard the news about the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history that shook the nation on Oct. 1.

By 1 p.m. at least 16 people had donated their blood with Covington at four donation stations, according to the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center. By 3 p.m. coordinators reported 30 total blood and plasma products with the ability to save 66 lives.

Moved by the news and feeling a need to help, U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands decided to host the blood drive and reached out to The Blood Center and VA Outpatient Clinic in Conroe.

"It seemed like we had so many Americans rush to help us rescue during Hurricane Harvey and provide immediate relief and bring us clothing and food to our communities," said Brady as a nurse prepared to draw his blood at the clinic. "When I heard about the Las Vegas shooting my first thought was how could we help?"

By replenishing the local blood supply, which can be distributed internationally as well, he said it would help The Blood Center be prepared to assist in disasters. While the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center said Houston's blood banks are full from post-Harvey donations, the Center is able to offer the blood to Las Vegas where at least 59 people were killed and 527 people were injured during a country music festival by high-rise gunman Stephen Paddock.

"There are so many victims that are still in hospitals," he added referring to Las Vegas. "There's 45 (people) I think in just one hospital, it seemed like there is a way we can help which is to replenish our local blood banks so that they could be backstocked to help those victims in Las Vegas."

As of 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center in Las Vegas reported 45 patients remaining in the hospital, 23 still in critical condition with 199 patients initially received and 16 fatalities.

MCSO Sheriff Rand Henderson also decided to donate. Only about two days before the shooting, the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office training academy, Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and Office of Risk Management presented a "Run, Hide, Fight" training to the Montgomery County Republican Women on how to survive an active shooter, a new program available to the community.

"Active shooter incidents can happen anywhere, they happen in our neighborhoods, they happen where we shop," Henderson said. "It's not restricted to certain parts of the country. So we prepare for that and we try to prepare our citizens."

U.S. Navy veteran Nicole Coovert of Kingwood has a relative who lives in Las Vegas. She was at home when she learned about the news.

"I wanted to help out in some way," Coovert said. "I was in complete and utter shock and I guess disgusted in the action."

Clinic Director Jason Biscamp said the clinic was also ready to help.

"Since this area was recently affected by Harvey it has been very moving to see the country come together to do something for this area and it's been nice to be able to repay with the tragedy that happened in Las Vegas," Biscamp said. "This is a way we could give back in a real life-giving way. When Mr. Brady called we jumped at the chance to try to make this happen."

This is the third and most successful blood drive that the clinic has had with more anticipated in the future, Biscamp said.

The blood drive's supervisor Languia Felder said there is in general always a need for blood donations.

About 1,000 donations a day are required in the Texas Gulf Coast region to meet the ongoing needs of patients undergoing cancer treatment, having surgeries, being treated for anemia and much more. When the local blood supply is strong, The Blood Center may meet local needs and be as prepared as possible to assist other areas in times of disaster, according to information from the Center.

"Only 5 percent of the entire population of the United States actually donates blood and as of right now there is no substitute for blood," said phlebotomist Lindsay Luker.

Among them include Covington who has donated at least five times and commended the blood drive.

"I'm O-negative so I try to donate as many times as I can, whenever I can," he said. "I think it's great because they are trying to help. Anybody that can donate blood, that is good blood, should donate. We should all help each other. I can only take my blood, so if somebody has O Neg they better be able to help me if I'm giving blood."

More information is available at www.giveblood.org. To learn more about the Conroe VA Outpatient Clinic, call (936) 522-4000. To learn more about the Run, Hide, Fight active shooter training and video, call MCSO or visit visit.mctxsheriff.org

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