Original Repository: Howard University. Moorland-Spingarn Research Center. Charles R. Drew Papers
Reproduced with permission of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center.
Becoming "the Father of the Blood Bank," 1938-1941
December 7, 1940
Dear Mr. Beattie:
To date there have been 14,047 appointments for donations in the nine hospitals now associated in this work collecting blood
for transshipment to England in the form of diluted Plasma. Approximately 11,000 - 500cc donations have been taken and processed.
By the middle of January we hope to have collected blood from 20,000 donors. A step-up in publicity is under way at this time.
According to our latest information from Sir Edward Mellanby, if the present rate of shipment of Plasma is continued until
about the first of February, the set-up in England will be functioning smoothly enough to take care of all your needs. We
realize that this is an assumption based on observations which may change at any minute and we therefore are prepared to continue
to ship Plasma as long as there is a need.
Requests have come in from many cities all over the United States to assist in this work. It has been felt that until the
routines are more thoroughly worked out and final decisions have been made concerning the type of container, the antiseptic
of choice, the merits and demerits of Plasma vs. Serum, and the advisability of drying the final product, that the work should
remain localized in this vicinity where it can be more adequately supervised.
Should the needs greatly increase I think it would be able to swing into operation in a period of about six weeks in at least
three major cities. Until there is some indication that this is necessary we shall continue at the present rate. At the same
time, devoting a lot of energy to the solving of some of the problems which have arisen in attempting such mass handling of
blood. Late growth has shown up in pools which have shown negative cultures for one month. This is particularly discomforting.
The drying of the material may be a way to get around this problem.
If the knowledge of the methods of preparing pyrogen-free water is no better in some of the outlying districts of Great Britain
than it is in the United States, the problem of supplying such water for reconstituting dry plasma or serum would I think
be a very real one.
When one considers the matter of supplying plasma to an army on the march in a territory such as that in which the Greeks
are fighting, the question of the final form of the blood substitute becomes even more difficult to adequately answer.
This whole process has many more angles to it that was at first suspected. The methods used in a hospital for a blood bank
simply do not fill the needs of a factory-sized job such as this one. But, with all that we feel now that the work is going
along very smoothly and the number of contaminated pools markedly reduced. We should of course like to see them disappear
entirely but we know that even in the best bacteriological laboratories where the personnel has been serving for many years
and where methods are very refined a certain percentage of materials is constantly contaminated. Some of the hospitals have
had phenomenal records as regards this point. One is particular has taken approximately 2,000 donors with a loss through contaminations
of only 0.14%.
I am including with this letter the minutes of three of our recent meetings to give you some insight into the progress and
problems of this particular group.
We are working in close cooperation with the National Research Council, the Army and Navy of this country, and with similar
agencies in Canada so that any information which might come to one is immediately transmitted to the other groups interested
in this work.
Interest remains high. Everyone seems to want to help and help in an increasingly vigorous manner.
Reports as we get them on this side seem much more optimistic as regards the eventual outcome of this scrap. Continued good
luck to you.