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Billy Bob’s Texas Hosts A Weekend Blood Drive To Replenish The Dwindling Blood Supply

Christopher Connelly
Eric Garcia donates blood at Billy Bob's.

Billy Bob’s Texas is best known for bull riding, boot scooting, country singing and beer drinking. But like everywhere these days, when crowds of more than 10 people are a public health concern, the party’s on pause at the world’s largest Honky Tonk. This weekend, though, the entertainment complex is taking on a critical role for North Texas: helping replenish the region’s blood supply.

As schools, businesses and places of worship close to stop people from spreading the coronavirus, blood drives are being canceled across the country. On Thursday, blood banks were projecting 355,000 fewer blood donations would be made nationwide in the coming months because of canceled events and coronavirus concerns, according to the American Association of Blood Banks.

“We need over 1,000 donors a day to come and donate in the D-FW area so that we can make sure we have enough blood for the hospitals that we support,” Colleen Horan, a field recruitment consultant with Carter BloodCare, said. “We need to do something to make sure that our cancer patients and trauma victims and people with blood disorders have what they need.”

Carter Blood Care supplies blood products for about 90% of the hospitals in North, Central and East Texas, and more than 4,000 blood donation events have been canceled this month, according to the blood bank's website. So the blood bank worked with Billy Bob’s to set up this weekend’s marathon donation event.

The blood bank’s regular blood donation sites throughout the region are still open, and more mobile drives are being planned in the future. Information about scheduling a donation and a screening questionnaire are on Carter BloodCare’s website and other donation sites can be found on the AABB’s website.

When blood supplies reached critically low levels in the past, Carter BloodCare could rely on other blood banks to help fill in the gap. But with the coronavirus’ impact affecting blood banks everywhere, there is no surplus available.

“Blood is perishable, so we’ve got to keep it coming in,” Horan said. “The need is constant, and the turnaround is quick. This blood that comes in is going to get tested and processed and go right back out to area hospitals.”

Eric Garcia stopped by Billy Bob’s on Friday with his girlfriend after she saw a post about donating blood on Instagram. The cement truck driver had donated before, but said it was years ago when he was in high school.

“Some people need blood, and you don’t know if they might die if you don’t try to help out,” he said.

Credit Christopher Connelly / KERA News
Billy Bob's hosts a weekend blood drive to make up the dwindling supply.

Other Billy Bob’s donors were already regular blood donors.

“I worked at a trauma center for many years, so I see the need for blood,” said respiratory therapist Kaye Copsey. “It’s just a small part that I can do.”

The dozen donation stations set up throughout the bar are spread out further than normal to maintain social distancing while hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes are conspicuously placed throughout the concert hall.

Personal trainer Alex Ayala, who is considered a universal donor because his O negative blood type can be transfused into patients with any blood type, said he didn’t worry about coronavirus’ risk.

“Everyone here is really welcoming here, and the facility’s very clean, and they make sure you feel good when you leave,” Ayala said. “If you’re kind of on the edge of whether you want to donate, I highly recommend it because you never know when you might need blood yourself.”

Carter BloodCare plans to get about 65 units of blood per day or more from the Billy Bob’s location, which is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Christopher Connelly is a reporter covering issues related to financial instability and poverty for KERA’s One Crisis Away series. In 2015, he joined KERA to report on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. From Fort Worth, he also focused on politics and criminal justice stories.