The Blood Drive Saves Lives

Jonathan Dauterman, Writer, Online Editor

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When she was in her seventh grade year at Woodside Middle School, Cora Walrond (9) had a form of blood cancer and, at one point, needed a blood transfusion. Walrond needed a transfusion because, at the time, she was in the hospital with a fever, a very serious situation for people with cancer, as their immune system is severely weakened to the point that common illnesses can prove to be fatal.

“(I needed a transfusion) because the white blood cells fight off infection and I was running low on those,” Walrond said. “It was prone to infection. I just needed a boost.”

In the hospital, Walrond needed white blood cells at the time, but also received red blood cells and platelets to help with her fever, all of which came from different blood donations.

“The blood is used for all sorts of things such as trauma patients, surgeries, (and) cancer patients that need red blood cells,” Vanessa Popescu (11) said.

On March 13 in Room 900, the Red Cross will help to host a blood drive, which the Student Government will help organize. The blood donated will be sent to a variety of locations in the nation and used for many different procedures through the Red Cross. This year, the drive is mainly organized by Popescu, a junior representative of the Student Government, and her fellow members Panashe Chakabva (12) and Luke Lael (12).

Some students have experience not only in being involved with organizing the blood drive, but in having received blood from a transfusion in the past. Cora Walrond is one such student.

The blood drive at Homestead deals primarily with extracting red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets from donations they receive. Platelets are primarily related to blood clotting, and are often needed in patients with illnesses that directly affect their blood and/or vessels, such as Walrond. Patients that need blood donations often need one or all three of these things. Because all blood contain these three kinds of cells, they can be separated and used on different patients in different transfusions.

“One pint of blood can save up to three lives,” Popescu said.

Generally, the Student Government gives out information to students about the drive in advisory the week before the event, and in the days immediately before the event students can sign up for the drive in the cafeteria during lunch. This year, that responsibility largely falls on Popescu and two of fellow Student Government members, Panashe Chakabva (12) and Luke Lael (12).

“We start signing up a week or two before it starts,” Chakabva said. “What Student Government does is put up fliers and put out a ton of information… and volunteer while we’re there.”

Though preparations for the event start early in the day, students are only able to donate during a few select periods. Typically, students can come down to Room 900 and donate during fourth, fifth or sixth period.

“We will give students passes and they have to (donate blood) during their study hall or after school,” Chakabva said.

In spite of the time restrictions, Student Government is still emphasizing that exceptions can be made and meetings can be arranged for those that want to participate but are having trouble finding the time.

“People who really want to donate (can) just contact us,” Popescu said.

In addition to the blood drive on March 13, Homestead has hosted several blood drives of a similar style in the past, all with great success and several donations. According to Popescu, last year had around 80 students donating blood.

“Homestead always has a pretty good turnout,” Chakabva said.

The Red Cross, as with their past blood drives, will be sending staff members to carry out the event, while Student Government members will be able to volunteer throughout the whole event.

“Usually they have a few nurses,” Popescu said. “Luke (Lael) and I are there the whole day, (and there are) usually three or four more (students) doing hour-long shifts.”

While the event is officially supposed to end at 4 p.m., student volunteers and Red Cross nurses are allowed to remain until participants stop arriving, which generally extends into the early evening.

“Last year we had people coming until about 6:30 p.m.,” Popescu said. “(It goes) as long as people keep coming in.”

While students are highly encouraged to donate blood, teachers and staff members are allowed to participate themselves. There are more restrictions, however, on students.

“(Students) can’t do it if (they) are anemic or iron deficient,” Chakabva said. “Students can prepare by eating a good breakfast in the morning and a good dinner after; if you go in and you have an iron deficiency or you’re just feeling weak, don’t do it.”

In order to donate blood, students must be a minimum of 16 years old. Sixteen-year-olds must have their parents sign a consent form, but this is not required for students 17 years and older. The consent forms, which can be found in Student Services, also include details about healthy weights for donors.

Compared to the previous blood drives in past years, the Student Government is emphasizing how important it is for many students as possible to participate this year due to all the accidents and natural disasters, such as Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

“They’re not getting as much blood as they usually get,” Chakabva said. “After the recent hurricanes, the nation has a shortage of blood supply to give out. If we can get more people to donate blood, then more people get blood not only in Fort Wayne, but in the whole nation.”

When transporting blood to different areas outside of Fort Wayne, it must be done quickly and be immediately followed by storage and refrigeration, lest it begin to degrade.

“Usually the blood stays in Fort Wayne because it can only be viable for so long, but sometimes it goes get sent out to other places,” Chakabva said.

Homestead has the distinction of being one of the only high schools in the area to host continuous blood drives over the years of this scale, with the others being Canterbury and Carroll.

“We’re one of three high schools in the area to do (blood drives),” Popescu said. “It’s just our own thing.”

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