Students and faculty donate blood, alleviate nationwide blood shortage
With a small poke of a needle and 10 minutes of one’s time, a life can be saved. The selfless and vital act of donating blood is one that many participate in, but few know the true impact of their donations.
On Monday, Nov. 14, Carter BloodCare came to campus to host a blood drive, coordinated with students from National Honor Society along with the club’s sponsors Susan Weil and Amy Henderson. Students at least 16-years-old could participate and could receive three hours of community service for donating.
Upper school history teacher and Junior Class Dean Claire Mrozek was among these donors. Mrozek donates at least once a year through the school’s blood drive.
“I just do it through the drives here because it’s really convenient,” Mrozek said. “Sadly, there are tragedies every minute, and there’s not an awful lot I can do beyond this. The more supplies that medical professionals have that they need, the better the chances are that if my family or I ever need it, there’s going to be a ready supply.”
After blood is donated, it goes through extensive testing to ensure that it is hospital-ready. Carter BloodCare’s headquarters are in Bedford, Texas, so the blood from the school’s drive, along with all of the company’s other drives is sent to their headquarters after collection.
“Those units will come back and then as soon as they’re in, all of our lab techs start the whole process for testing,” James Black, Public Relations Specialist at Carter BloodCare, said. “There are several tests that they go through, just looking at health markers for different diseases or viruses, the count for hemoglobin, if this particular unit of blood is something where it might make sense to separate it and process it for platelets for plasma or red blood cells.”
If blood tests indicate a recent Covid-19 infection, for example, then the plasma from the donation could be separated and utilized to treat a sicker patient with Covid-19. Once the blood has been tested and determined suitable for usage, Carter BloodCare will store it until receiving a request from a hospital in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, when they will send the blood out.
“The need for blood and for platelets is so critical right now, that typically as soon as [the blood is] ready, it goes out the door,” Black said. “It’s on its way to a hospital that needs it. Typically the testing and processing of everything might be about two days. [The testing is] just to make sure that everything is safe in the blood that is going out.”
The United States has seen a dire need for blood donations since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. On Jan. 11, the Red Cross declared a national blood crisis with a 10 percent decline in donors and a 62 percent decline in blood drives since the pandemic.
“There is still a ripple effect that we’re going through from when the pandemic hit for two years straight that hit us really, really hard,” Black said. “A lot of the locations, like the high schools and businesses, that would host our blood drives were shut down. Everybody was learning from home or working remotely, so people weren’t there to do the drive, and there was also the question of social distancing.”
In Texas, the two consecutive February freezes in 2021 and 2022 were detrimental to Carter BloodCare and other blood-collecting organizations. Carter facilities were shut down for three days as a result of the 2022 freeze to keep both workers and donors off the roads. On an average day, the company collects blood from around 1,500 donors, so a three-day shutdown lost potential blood from almost 5,000 people.
“We’re still seeing those repercussions from the past few years, affecting the community blood supply,” Black said. “In the holiday season, when high schools are on break and when families are traveling and they’re out of town, people don’t automatically think, ‘I need to go donate blood,’ so there’s a slump during the season, and that really hits us too.”
Carter BloodCare tries to raise awareness of the urgent need for blood during the holiday season, as one of the best gifts to give is the life-saving donation of blood. According to Black, one donor’s blood can be used on up to three patients in need, so a little goes a long way. The Carter website displays the varying levels of need for different types of blood with O-negative, the universal donor, at the most critical level. O-negative blood can be used on anyone regardless of blood type, so in emergencies when a patient’s blood type is unknown, having donated O-negative blood is crucial.
Donating blood is a simple and costless process, and it has a deep impact on the community. For some, however, the act of donation can seem daunting. Mrozek offers tips for mitigating stress about giving blood.
“It’s a little icky, but I’ve figured out coping mechanisms,” Mrozek said. “I used to bring a magazine, and I would just put the magazine over my arm so that I didn’t have to think about it. Now, I can just read something on my phone. It ‘hurts’ isn’t the right word. For me. It’s just the concept is challenging. But again, it’s one of those things that is mind over matter where I know it’s such a good thing to do.”
Aside from temporary fatigue and weakness, donating blood only has benefits; it not only saves lives but also gives donors a free health check-up.
“Don’t think of it as donating blood; think about it as saving lives,” Black said. “And ask yourself, whose life are you willing to save? Because when you donate blood, that’s what you’re doing. If you think about it, if something were to happen to your best friend or a coach or favorite teacher or someone in your family and if they needed blood, would you be willing to donate to help them?”