Blood drive earns its stripes

Missouri students partake in nation’s largest blood drive.

For four days last week, the Hearnes Center fieldhouse was transformed into what organizers called “the nation’s largest blood drive” for the American Red Cross.

This year’s event, held Oct. 13-16, was the 29th annual Homecoming drive.

The blood drive itself brought in 5,738 units of blood for the Missouri-Illinois Region of the American Red Cross, said regional CEO Scott Caswell. The number does not yet include satellite donors, who donate elsewhere.

Last year, approximately 18,711 lives were saved from MU’s annual blood drive, with a total of 6,237 units donated, according to the Mizzou Alumni Association.

Caswell said this blood drive will likely collect close to two and a half percent of the entire region’s supply for a year. They collect about 210,000 units in Missouri and Illinois and nearly 6,000 of those will come from this blood drive.

“We need to collect 800 units (per) day to supply our hospitals in Missouri and Illinois,” Caswell said. “This blood drive alone collects 1.5, almost two days of supply each day. So, in one day we cover almost two days of supply. It just ensures that patients have what they need.”

As sophomore Scott Grim was waiting in line, he expressed anxiety about donating blood. As a first-time donor, he said he was unsure of what to expect.

“I might be a little queasy after, I’m not really sure,” Grim said. “I’m just looking forward to the experience.”

Some students waited for up to five hours to donate. It seems like a long wait, but it’s for safety purposes, said Daphne Mathew, communications director for the American Red Cross.

Donors must go through 13 levels of safety procedures when checking in, including reading a booklet and discussing their health history, she said. They must answer a series of about 52 questions.

“The (most important) part of it is the honesty and integrity of the donors who participate,” Caswell said. “That’s where the safety really starts.”

Sometimes, donors have to be deferred from giving blood for various reasons. There is a minimum body weight, 110 pounds, for all donors. People who have traveled to malarial areas or who have lived in Europe for more than five years are also not permitted to donate, Mathew said.

She said donors are sometimes upset that they are unable to donate.

Freshman Grace Bommel was a volunteer at the blood drive. She is unable to donate blood herself, she said, due to an iron deficiency.

“That’s why I’ve always worked with blood drives, because I know I can’t give, so I chose to (help) that way instead,” Bommel said. “This is one of the biggest ones in the country, and I just wanted to be involved in it.”

Jeremy Essner, director of the MU Homecoming Steering Committee, emphasized that while donors might be afraid to donate the first time, the impact of giving blood is nearly immediate.

“By Saturday for the Homecoming game, all those units are going to be gone,” Essner said. “They’re going to be shipped away to the hospitals for patients that are in need of a blood transfusion, whether they’re sick or they’ve been in a car accident. These pints of blood are actually affecting people in the hospitals as of right now.”

A potential donor doesn’t have to be nearby to help out. Junior Lizzie Nussbaum said she asked her mother, Sarah, to be a satellite donor included in the blood drive total.

Sarah Nussbaum has given blood 10 to 12 times before, and since she’s a universal donor (O-negative), nearly any patient can use her blood.

“I’ve had surgery where I’ve needed blood, so it always feels great to give back,” she said.

Preparing for such a large event like this takes several months.

Aly Friend, coordinator of student programs for MAA, said students were selected to be a part of the blood drive committee back in February and worked with the Red Cross all the way through the summer.

The level of organization involved with the blood drive helps make it the largest in the country, Matthew said. “It just runs like clockwork,” she said. “It’s a beautiful operation.”

Setting up the fieldhouse took five to six hours, Friend said.

With the help of the Hearnes Center crew, the Red Cross and the Homecoming Steering Committee, they were able to set up curtains, equipment, tables and chairs, as well as an inflatable arch and Truman the Tiger. The entire gymnasium was filled.

To Friend, the drive demonstrates the selflessness of the MU community.

“At the end of the day, it might take a little time, but they can save up to three lives, and that’s a pretty incredible thing to do,” she said.

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