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Blood drive restrictions keep many from donating

The Mills sophomore class and the American Red Cross encouraged students to give blood at a drive held in the Student Union last Wednesday. Yet restrictions on blood eligibility and a lack of student interest kept donations low.

Mills students signed up for the drive by filling out forms at Cowell or registering with the American Red Cross Web site before the drive took place. Volunteers could also sign up at the event, where Elina Denise, a resident of the Wellness Floor, distributed numbers.

“I’m part of the blood drive because of Wellness and students from Wellness come down and greet people and make sure people with an appointment get in,” she said.

Seventy-three people signed up for the blood drive, but the number that showed up to donate, or who were accepted, is not known as of publication.

Not all who came in could donate their blood, however. “Some people are sick or have low iron or aren’t heavy enough,” Denise said.

Sophomore Genieve Evans was deferred due to low blood count. “I donated blood both times last year and I got a good feeling when I did, this was my first time donating at Mills,” Evans said.

She promised to try to give blood at the next drive.

The website recommends alleviating low blood counts or iron levels by eating iron-rich foods like beans, fortified cereals, raisins, fish, poultry, and red meat.

Sophomore Dana Martinez came out to donate. “One of the things I know is not a lot of people do it. I want to do what I can because every little bit helps,” Martinez said. Unfortunately, she was deferred because she didn’t weigh enough.

Though only 5 percent of people who offer their blood are eligible to be donors, according to Ariel Mercado, account manager for the northern California region of the American Red Cross, she encourages students to volunteer.

She said 90 percent of the Red Cross is comprised of volunteers, the rest being staff members. 20-30 percent of the nation’s blood comes from high school and college volunteers.

Some students donated for the first time and others had given blood before.

“I’ve donated blood before in high school,” Freshwoman Alissa Chasten said, adding that she was nervous when she first donated blood.

“I kept doing it though because the people I donated blood to sent me a letter about how the blood I donated helped this kid who got into an accident,” Chasten said.

Hearing about the blood drive through flyers and word of mouth, Chasten said she will participate again next semester.
Mercado reports that many people don’t donate because people don’t ask them, not be-cause of fear of needles or the fact that they take medication.

Senior Merri Gordon did not donate because she is an athlete. “I was worried I wouldn’t be able to perform at the rate I was supposed to,” she said.

Students who cannot or do not wish to give blood can aid the cause in other ways.

“Some of my biggest advocates are people who can’t donate blood. If you can’t donate you can still help out by getting the word out,” Mercado said.

Mercado also discussed the fragility of the blood supply. She told the story of a California Highway Patrol officer who was hurt in a hit and run accident last year and went through 180 units of blood to save his life.

Mills’ blood drive goal for Wednesday was 42 units of blood, which needs a gross estimate of 70 to 80 volunteers.

The total amount of blood gathered is not known as of publication.

The Web site offers tips to donors. It suggests nine hours of rest, drinking water in order to increase the person’s blood volume and eating a healthy breakfast.

The site also warns potential blood donors against high fat foods like hamburgers, french fries and ice cream. Consuming these foods can affect infection tests because the excess of fatty materials in the blood stream could be mistaken for harmful foreign bodies.