OTTUMWA — Wanting to help is a common Iowa reaction to a tragedy like the bombing in Boston. Just be sure, say helper agencies, your efforts really are helpful.
The desire to help is natural and commendable, says an expert at the Poynter Institute for journalism.
Al Tompkins warns that the desire to help often results not in needed supplies but “warehouses full of flowers and unwanted teddy bears.”
For example, there was a desperate need for blood in Boston after the explosions. With help from Ottumwans and other donors in the region, they received some of that supply.
”The patients who were injured yesterday in Boston were treated, and they did need blood. A lot of blood,” said Kirby Winn, spokesman for the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center, which includes the Ottumwa blood bank. “It depleted their supply quite a bit. What happened with our blood center was that the hospitals in Boston put out a national appeal for blood.”
With a reported 176 people injured, 17 critical, Mississippi Valley was able to send Boston 120 units of blood.
“Especially O negative, A positive and B positive. Those are the three that were needed to help the most people,” Winn said.
The Iowans who helped won’t be the ones who rush to give blood now; in fact, a massive rush of new donors would not be helpful right now. The people who really helped are the regular donors from places like Boston and Ottumwa.
“It was the people who gave last week,” said Winn. “One thing we heard about was the public’s idea of giving blood, the desire to do something. But we do not want to see an influx of donors here. We know that people in Ottumwa want to help the people in Boston. But if all of a sudden, we had a lot of people show up, it would essentially expire on the shelf.”