The annual partnership between Mills College and the American Red Cross’ “2018 Disaster Relief Blood Drive” delivered a strong turn out, with over 50 scheduled participants that who donated blood.
The event took place at the Student Union serving donors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. To serve donors, the space transformed into a makeshift clinic, with dividers enclosing donors and doctors, nurses at the ready, along with all the necessary medical equipment needed to extract, store, and transport the collected donations.
Courtney Anderson, a Red Cross Sponsor, admits that while the donation numbers were up this season, they could have been higher, but were impacted by a shortage of available staff, and so could only take appointee’s as opposed to their usual inclusion of walk-in donors policy open to walk-ins.
However, Anderson highlighted the American Red Cross’ ongoing efforts to motivate donor turnout by incentivizing the entire process.
“…Those people who have registered to donate today are eligible for the Go for the Gold give away, which is a chance to win one of five $500 gift cards courtesy of the Red Cross,” Anderson said.
If the razzle and dazzle of the occasional material benefit provided by larger scale organizations isn’t enticing—then perhaps the heart of the matter is. While the monetary incentive is part of the appeal, blood donation is also a vital part of helping patients.
“Blood donation is absolutely critical for patient care. In fact, last time I checked, it was the most common procedure performed on hospitalized patients,” corresponded Dr. Justin D. Kreuter Medical Director of the Blood Donor program at the Mayo Clinic, when asked about the role of blood donation in relation to treatment care.
He went on to explain that this is in part due to the versatile function that blood transfusions serve; ranging from immediate emergency services for trauma patients, to enabling longer term, potentially life-saving therapy for patients receiving chemotherapy, or aiding in the relief of pain for patients with low blood counts.
“There are no FDA-approved substitutes. If people don’t donate, then we don’t have blood available when personal or regional tragedies happen.” Dr. Kreuter said.
That being said, if the rate at which blood donations are needed is considered constant then how can folks become involved to help, and who is considered eligible to donate? The requirements to donate blood are: being in good health; not having had a cold or vaccinations in the past two weeks, not having traveled outside of the U.S in certain regions for at least a year,” states Janaye Pope, Donor Recruitment for the American Red Cross.
Eligibility information and more is readily available on the American Red Cross’ official website, as well in their app, “Blood Donor” on Google Play or iTunes store.
The app offers users real time information such as finding nearby blood drives, or scheduling availability for appointments, or (when possible) follow their blood’s journey from donation to delivery.
The app also provides information ranging from their blood type, to reward opportunities from premier retailers, as well as enabling users to create or join a life saving team and track their impact on a national leaderboard”
All this to say that there are many avenues for involvement in promoting blood donation and awareness.
The next step in the blood donation process involves receiving a physical health screen—measuring temperature, checking eyes, and blood pressure, accompanied by additional medical questions.
After the health screen, donors are comfortably situated and begin the process of having their blood drawn which can take eight to 12 minutes. The donation is one unit of blood which is the equivalent to a 16 ounce water bottle.
After being bandaged, donors are sent to the “canteen,” a station where they fuel up and receive juice and cookies before departing.
Mills student and first time donor, Marissa Reilly, who uses they/them pronouns, had a slightly different experience. They had been meaning to donate blood, and was further motivated by a friend who told her about the event happening on-campus. This had the domino effect of and ended up encouraging other friends of theirs to join, resulting in a coordinated effort to donate that day.
After the nurses prepared Reilly for the potential side effects of donating, they felt surprised by the immediacy of the sensation of the blood draw, “as soon as X amount of blood was gone from my body, I really began to feel weak—I wasn’t scared or anything but I was definitely aware of the change”.
Thankfully Reilly alerted nurses that they began to feel their vision closing in, resembling a blackout sensation. This was suspected to be connected to a pretty common happenstance for new donors not having enough to eat beforehand.
The nurses walked Reilly through a series of light movement exercises to get their blood flowing which involved: sitting up, laying back, raising knees and rolling side to side, and inciting a coughing action, which Reilly pointed out was the most helpful exercise for them.
When asked if this experience deterred her from donating in the future, Reilly explained that it did not. They felt that the medical staff were all very nice and accommodating, and that after giving their body a chance to recuperate, they felt back to base level health; closing with “I’m glad to have started donating.”
Another Blood Drive at Mills scheduled in the spring, but if folks want to donate blood before then there is an all American Red Cross locations in Oakland on Claremont Ave. are open to appointments anytime. You can give blood every 56 days.