The U.S. Food and Drug Administration notes that every two seconds a patient somewhere needs a blood transfusion. The need most certainly has not dropped amid the current pandemic, but the ability for the school to hold an on-campus blood drive was stripped from the annual service calendar. Yet, this setback did not stop Director of Service Learning Ms. Jini Loos from finding an opportunity for the community to donate. The event was ultimately held on Wednesday, February 10, in the gym of Our Mother of Good Counsel, across Pennswood Road from the Bryn Mawr Acme.
Besides standing as a tradition for multiple years, the blood drive presents an opportunity for students to grow comfortable with donating blood. For this reason and the increased need, Ms. Loos endeavored to organize the event at an off-campus location.
“We’ve been doing this for about 20 years, and I like to think that if the student does it their first time here, and they see that it’s OK to do it—they’re around people who they know, and they’re comfortable, and so on,” Ms. Loos said. “We hope that it will start like a lifetime of giving, and they’ll come back the next time and tell their friends it’s not that bad.”
Such was the case of Fourth Former Evan Wang. Having recently turned sixteen, Wang was eager to donate and help patients in need of blood.
“I wanted to donate blood because this was like the first opportunity where I was able to, and I always thought that like if I could give back to not even just my own community but just anyone really,” Wang said.
For Sixth Former Ryan Ngo, this year’s blood drive was not his first time donating but was his first Power Red donation. He underwent a process taking roughly one hour, during which twice the typical amount of his blood was taken. The platelets and plasma were separated from the red blood cells and returned to his bloodstream along with saline. Despite taking longer to complete, Ngo felt better after the Power Red donation than after his Whole Blood donation last year.
“I was more hydrated,” Ngo said. “It took longer, but I felt fine after.”
To ensure that the event was safe but comfortable as well, the American Red Cross staff wiped down contact areas and maintained distancing whenever possible, but also maintained a canteen area with snacks and water for those having donated to replenish energy.
Wang said, “I just trust that the Red Cross that we’re working with is going to do their best to keep everything clean and sanitary. I trust everyone involved, so I felt confident that nothing bad is going to happen.”
The requirement of having an open space where both safety and comfort could be accommodated was one challenge of holding the event on-campus. The other issue regarded the school’s limitation on intra-division visiting.
“We usually do it in the lower school, in the Multipurpose room, and we couldn’t do it there [this year] because even our upper school students aren’t allowed in the lower school,” Ms. Loos said.
Despite the difficulty in planning, this year’s blood drive reached satisfactory numbers, especially in the context of the apprehension surrounding the pandemic. Of the roughly seventy members of the community who had signed up for donating, roughly sixty were eligible and proceeded to donate blood. While the numbers of donors are less than in previous years, Ms. Loos is pleased with the results, considering that multiple donors performed the Power Red donation.
“Each pint of regular blood that you donate can serve up to three people. We also had about ten people do the double red blood cell donations, and that is two pints of red blood. So really, we’re in good shape; we’re over 100 pints,” Ms. Loos said.
Addressing those who are hesitant to donate due to fear of needles, Ngo emphasized the impact of donating blood.
“A little fear of needles is nothing compared to the need for blood in our community and around the country. Just think about that and you’ll be fine,” Ngo said.
Sometimes the donations from the school’s blood drive serve a specific hospital, as was the case in a recent year when the blood was directed toward the hospital where a student in the community was receiving treatment. Other times they are left for the American Red Cross to distribute.
“Sometimes it is personal, but generally speaking I think that I just want to encourage people to do it. It’s an easy thing to do, and it supports not only our community, but you know the larger community and local hospitals,” Ms. Loos said.
Wang recommends others to sign up for future donations, for he found his experience rather enjoyable.
Wang said, “It’s kind of fun. You should. if you haven’t done it once before, at least try it once.”