The 37th annual Rotary Health Fair won’t culminate with one big event at Homer High School this year, but there are several events being held in different locations in conjunction with the fair.
Two of them are coming up this weekend: Guardian Flight Alaska’s open house and the Blood Bank of Alaska’s mobile blood drive.
Guardian Flight Alaska’s Open House
The open house will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center. People are invited to stop by any time during those hours and meet some of Guardian’s pilots and clinicians, as well as other staff members, and ask questions about medevacs, medevac insurance, preferred provider contracts and membership with Guardian.
“It’s an opportunity for the community to meet the medevac team,” said Jessica Hyatt, business development specialist with Guardian and one of the seven Guardian employees who will be on hand for the open house.
Guardian Flight Alaska is the largest air medical transport company in the state, Hyatt said. The company specializes in flying patients to specialty care that’s not available where they are, as determined by the primary physician who’s working with the patient at the requesting facility.
While the company has served Homer with two fixed-wing aircraft, the recent addition of a helicopter means Guardian can get to places more quickly and it can get to more locations — for instance, a mountain, a remote beach, an accident scene.
While a hangar in Kenai is the helicopter’s “umbrella to get out of the weather,” the Guardian crew considers Homer its home away from home, Hyatt said. In fact, the theme of Saturday’s open house is “Home Sweet Homer,” because “we’ve adopted Homer as our home for our helicopter and crew,” says Hyatt. Two of Guardian’s pilots are full-time Homer residents.
Some of Guardian’s critical care clinicians also are helping with blood draws for eight days during the health fair. The clinicians include critical care nurses and paramedics with Intensive Care Unit and emergency room medicine experience and who are flight trained.
While Guardian has preferred provider contracts with organizations and businesses such as the Pacific Health Coalition, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, the Kenai Peninsula Borough and Hilcorp, it also offers memberships for $125 annually, with no insurance requirement. The membership includes everyone living in the household, says Hyatt.
There will be complementary coffee at Saturday’s event and several give-aways. The event will happen in a COVID-safe way with distancing and masks, Hyatt said.
Mobile Blood Drive
The Blood Bank of Alaska will host a blood drive from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the South Peninsula Hospital Training Center, 203 West Pioneer Avenue. Appointments are recommended and can be made by calling the blood bank at 907-222-5630 or by going online, bloodbankofalaska.org.
It’s important to adhere to the appointment schedule so COVID-safe distancing won’t be compromised. All donors should wear masks, said Wes Dahlgren, director of collections and recruitment for the Blood Bank of Alaska.
He reminds people that it’s important to donate blood because there is no artificial blood supply and because it’s so unpredictable when blood will be needed.
“Blood has a shelf life of 42 days,” Dahlgren said. “We continually need a stream of donors to come in to maintain a stable and safe supply of blood for the state of Alaska.”
There is currently a shortage of blood nationwide. Because of the pandemic, people aren’t donating as frequently, Dahlgren said. In Alaska, supplies of O positive and O negative are low, but not at critical levels. Still, more of all blood types are needed.
“Every type of blood is unique and important to us,” Dahlgren said.
Don’t worry if you don’t know your blood type. Most people don’t. Every unit of blood donated gets tested for blood type and goes through a robust screening process to make sure it is safe.
The blood donated in Alaska stays in Alaska — unless it is nearing its expiration date. Then, the Blood Bank of Alaska works through a national blood exchange to find another home for it, so it gets used.
“The last thing we want to do is waste someone’s gift of life,” Dahlgren said.
In the days leading up to the blood drive, donors are encouraged to eat healthy meals and stay hydrated. While the process for donating is simple, plan on at least an hour. You will register, fill out a health questionnaire and undergo a brief health screening to determine if you are fit to donate. At most, it is 15 minutes with a needle in your arm, and more typically it’s 5 to 8 minutes. There’s juice and cookies and other snacks after blood is drawn.
Dahlgren said the Blood Bank crew is excited to be coming to Homer. In normal years, mobile blood drives happen at least two or three times a year in Homer, he said. Because of the pandemic, this is the first time this year there’s been a mobile blood drive here.
Coming up: As part of the health fair, SVT will offer its community-wide free flu shot event from 4-7 p.m. Oct. 27 in the parking lot of Homer United Methodist Church. This is a first-come, first-served event with 200 vaccines available. More on this next week.
Reminder: The low-cost blood draws that are a centerpiece of the health fair are happening now. Appointments are available 7:30-10:30 a.m. Monday-Friday through Oct. 30 and Nov. 4-6. Register now at www.rotaryhealthfair.org. There are no walk-in appointments. All appointments and payments are online. If you need help making an appointment, call the Health Fair Hotline at 907-399-3158. To ensure a space, make sure you book your appointment now.
Lori Evans is the 2020-21 president of the Rotary Club of Homer-Kachemak Bay and a former editor and publisher of the Homer News.