Gannon hosts community blood drive
When Tricia Theiss began donating blood as a junior in high school, she had no idea how soon her good deed would come back to her.
Theiss’ father just underwent double hip replacement at UPMC Hamot earlier this month. The procedure, which involves swapping damaged parts from both hips for artificial substitutes, is a long, arduous procedure. During that time, several units of donor blood had to be kept nearby in case he lost too much of his own. Without it, he wouldn’t survive.
Theiss, a sophomore criminal justice and psychology major, said her dad’s experience made her much more aware of the necessity of blood donations.
“Anytime I have the chance to donate blood, I do, because I know the impact it can have,” she said.
To prepare for similar situations, the Community Blood Bank will hold a drive from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday in Gannon’s Hammermill Center lobby.
Surgical patients like Theiss’ father aren’t the only ones who require blood transfusions. According to the Community Blood Bank’s website, trauma and cancer patients, burn victims and premature newborns depend on them too.
The website lists some startling statistics: More than 4.5 million patients need blood transfusions each year in the U.S. and Canada — one person every two seconds. Only 37 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood, and less than 10 percent do annually. About one in seven people entering a hospital need blood. A single pint can save up to three lives.
Cristianne Johnson, a junior journalism communications major, hasn’t found herself or a loved one in need of a transfusion. Still, she said, she recognizes the urgent call for willing donors.
“If I needed blood, and no one in my family had the same type, I’d want it to be there for me,” she said.
Not only does donating offer a sense of security, she said, “it makes me feel good about myself.”
Johnson was only able to donate blood once before getting a tattoo, which precludes her for at least one year.
In addition to fresh ink and piercings, lack of knowledge often stops potential donors from giving. Seventeen percent of non-donors cite “never thought about it” as the main reason, while 15 percent say they’re too busy, according to the blood bank’s website.
Deanna Renaud, head recruiter and Erie County mobile coordinator for the Community Blood Bank, said that entire donation from start to finish takes less than an hour. She said she hopes the upcoming drive is as successful as it has been in past years. Students make up 30 percent of the blood bank’s donors, and drives at Gannon typically bring in 100 to 120 people.
The bank is coming off a noteworthy summer. With many student donors home for break and more people traveling for vacation, summer is normally a stressful season for the Community Blood Bank. Greater visibility and special promotions — including giveaways for Steelers tickets and a trip to Disneyland — helped avoid a summer shortage for the first time in 46 years. Still, the upcoming holidays keep the demand constant, Renaud said.
She emphasized that the blood donated at Tuesday’s drive will stay in this region. In fact, the Community Blood Bank is the only provider for Erie County hospitals, as well as Elk, Potter, Warren and McKean counties. So students and staff would receive this blood if treated locally.
“Every time you donate blood, you’re helping friends, family, neighbors, people right here at home,” Renaud said. “It’s always needed, and you never know who you’re going to help.”
However, Renaud acknowledges that the process can be intimidating.
“No one likes needles,” she said. “A bee sting actually hurts worse.”
She advises donors to bring homework or a friend for distraction.
The staff is aware of donors’ nerves, and they do their best to make each student comfortable, even offering drinks and snacks afterward.
For those who worry about adverse physical reactions, she highly recommends a solid meal and lots of water in the hours leading up to donation.
“If you’re hydrated, you’re going to feel 100 percent better when you’re done donating,” Renaud said.
Each unit of blood undergoes a series of 13 tests — 11 for infectious diseases — before it is transferred to a patient, the Community Blood Bank’s website states.
It is not possible to contract AIDS or other infectious illnesses via blood transfusion.
No appointment is needed to donate, as walk-ins will be accepted all day.
Students must be at least 17 years old, at least 110 pounds and be in generally good health.
Eligible donors must also present photo ID at the time of donation.
Everyone who signs in will be entered to win a $25 Calamari’s gift certificate.
For more information about the Community Blood Bank or donating blood, call 814-456-4206 to speak with a nurse.
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