American Red Cross club’s first blood drive in two years helps to ease nationwide blood shortage

Senior+Aute+Blackwell+holds+her+right+arm+up+while+an+American+Red+Cross+nurse+preps+it+before+the+blood+draw+during+the+Thursday%2C+April+21%2C+blood+drive+in+the+Lyceum.

Audrey Seo

Senior Aute Blackwell holds her right arm up while an American Red Cross nurse preps it before the blood draw during the Thursday, April 21, blood drive in the Lyceum.

Stacy Kim

The American Red Cross [ARC] club’s first on-campus blood drive in two years nearly met its goal of collecting 75 pints from student donors, organizers said.

“The blood drive had an excellent turnout,” said Jacquee Virgen, ARC senior account manager who coordinated the event with the club’s 10 cabinet members. “We created a plan, and we went in and executed it.”

A total of 72 pints of blood were donated during the drive held in the Lyceum – three shy of the 75-pint goal that the club had set, Virgen said. The ARC estimates that one pint of blood impacts three lives, which means the amount collected from the Thursday, April 22, event could potentially impact 216 lives.

The campaign – the first since 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic – was originally scheduled for October 2021 and January of this year, but the former was canceled because of COVID-19 concerns while the latter got postponed because of the rising Omicron variant that impacted attendance among several students.

“I was really looking forward to the October and January blood drives, and for them to be canceled or postponed was as if a lot of our planning and all that hard work went to waste,” ARC president senior Rachel Lee said. “But once Omicron started subsiding, we were able to get our April blood drive approved in early February.” 

Organizers said that of the 124 students and one teacher – math instructor Amanda Morris – who signed up to give blood, Because of time constraints, ARC representatives were only able to process 71 donors, 11 of whom were considered “Power Red” for being able to donate 2 pints. Morris was among those who didn’t get processed.

The collection efforts come at a time when the ARC is facing a national blood shortage. 

“The Red Cross has experienced a 10% decline in the number of people donating blood since the beginning of the pandemic and continues to confront relentless issues due to the pandemic, including ongoing blood drive cancellations and staffing limitations,” according to a Jan. 11, 2022, statement on the ARC’s website. “Adding to the concern is the surge of COVID-19 cases.

“The Red Cross has experienced low donor turnout ever since the delta variant began spreading in August, and that trend continues as the Omicron variant takes over.”

Even though the club fell three pints shy of its goal to collect 75 pints of blood, Lee said the drive was important to address the ARC’s blood collection crisis.

“First of all, I love that we were able to host this blood drive,” she said. “I know we’re under the nation’s worst blood shortage in over a decade, which is why being able to host this felt so rewarding that we were able to help out and contribute to lessen the pressure of this shortage.”

Among the 11 Power Red donors was senior Daniel Vargas.

“I want to be a nurse when I’m older so I can help lots of other people live their lives better and happier,” said Vargas, who had given blood twice in his sophomore. “Although I can’t do that right now, knowing I could at least give blood to make other people in the world feel better is pretty cool.”

Aside from Lee, who has had prior experience with organizing blood drives from earlier this school year, many of the other club members were new to volunteering at this event and were trained the day of.

“I expected [the club] to work hard and be flexible to address the complications that came up during any blood drive,” ARC adviser Robert Bradburn said. “They were, and they collected more blood than I expected.”

I know we’re under the nation’s worst blood shortage in over a decade, which is why being able to host this felt so rewarding that we were able to help out and contribute to lessen the pressure of this shortage.”

— senior Rachel Lee

First-time blood donor junior Siena Ramirez said the blood drawing process was not as intimidating as she had thought, and her friend helped relieve any nerves she had.

“I think my favorite part was being able to do it with one of my best friends,” Ramirez said. “Before we got called to start our blood testing, we made an agreement that if either of us passed out, we would break the awkwardness and laugh at each other.”

According to the ARC guidelines, donors must be 16 with parental consent or at least 17 years old and meet certain weight requirements. Volunteers from the school club monitored processed students as they ate burritos and snacks to check for possible symptoms or signs of passing out.

Organizers said they hope the COVID-19 pandemic or any of its variants would no longer cancel or postpone the ARC club’s traditional October and January blood drives on campus.

“I think it’s very important for the incoming ARC cabinet members to be aware of all that it takes to plan a blood drive, especially since we will be having a few next year,” said co-publicity manager sophomore Isabella Jacobs, who helped organize this blood drive along with her fellow cabinet members. “I’m looking forward to seeing more donations being made to make a larger impact on the ARC organization.”