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State blood shortage motivates more donors

Oct. 4, 2000



With the lowest blood supply levels in the history of the United States, the American Red Cross and Alpha Phi Omega are asking the Baylor community to donate blood on campus this week.

According to Diane Jenkins, senior Texas territory manager for the American Red Cross, Central Texas is operating on less than a one-day supply of blood.

'This is the worst it has been across the country,' Jenkins said. 'In Texas alone, use of blood is up 12 to 15 percent. We are collecting more blood than ever, but it is also being used on a much greater scale than before.'

Jenkins said because of new medical treatments and an older population that is living longer, the blood supply is in greater demand than ever.

'More people are receiving blood,' Jenkins said. 'People are living longer, and they are having medical treatments which were previously unavailable, such as organ transplants and hip replacements, which use up a lot of blood.'

Jenkins also said an increase in trauma injuries has put a strain on the blood supply.

'In Waco alone, there can be three or four car accidents a day,' Jenkins said. 'It wouldn't take much, for one major traumatic event [can] wipe out our daily blood supply.'

According to the American Red Cross Web site, every two seconds someone in the United States needs a pint of blood, yet only 5 percent of the nation donates blood.

Jenkins said many regular blood donors are becoming too old to donate, which is why the Red Cross is recruiting at high schools and colleges for new donors.

'We do everything in our power to make donating blood a good experience for people,' Jenkins said. 'We like to recruit young people and give them a good donation experience so that they will become life-long donors. People need to know that just a single donation can save three to four lives.'

Jenkins said the Red Cross is hoping to get 750 units of blood at Baylor this week.

'We always do well at Baylor, and Alpha Phi Omega helps us a lot in recruiting students and in running the blood drive,' she said.

Jenkins said the three main reasons people do not donate blood is because it is not convenient; potential donors are often scared of giving blood; and because donors may have never been asked to give.

'Being on campus provides us with a wonderful opportunity to educate people about donating,' she said. 'Most people can donate, but they don't because of common misconceptions or fears.'

Jenkins said that to be a donor, a person must be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health.

'People can donate if they are on medications for depression, allergies, diabetes and high blood pressure, to name a few,' she said. 'Often, people don't know that they can give blood in these circumstances, so they don't out of misconception.'

Jenkins said potential donors go through a screening process prior to donation, and the potential donors will be turned away if they

* have a blood transmissible disease

* have an iron-deficiency

* have gotten a tattoo in the past 12 months

* have taken Accutane in the past four weeks

* have been on antibiotics in the past 48 hours,

* or have traveled to a malaria-risk country in the past 12 months.

'A lot of students also think they can't donate if they have just received a piercing, but it is only if they did it themselves and not in a professional, sterile environment,' Jenkins said. 'I encourage anyone who questions their eligibility to go by any donation site on campus and talk to a nurse about it.'

Benjamin Walz, a Colorado Springs freshman, gave blood on Monday for the first time.

'It was not painful at all,' Walz said. 'The donation itself took about 15 minutes. It was a good experience. I would definitely do it again and I would recommend that everyone who can donate do it.'

To help make their donation experience easier, Jenkins said she recommends people eat a good meal and drink plenty of fluids before giving blood.

Brad Holt, a Colleyville senior and APO member, said he began donating blood after he worked a blood drive for APO.

'It doesn't hurt that much, and it is well worth it,' Holt said. 'I like having the knowledge that I am helping to save at least three lives. I hope that people will do it as often as they can and not just once a semester during a blood drive.'

Jenkins said that healthy, qualified people can donate as often as every eight weeks.

'The biggest gift that people get is the personal satisfaction, knowing that they are helping to save lives,' Jenkins said. 'It is the best feeling ever, but they won't know how great it feels until they try it.'

The blood drive will be held at various sites on campus through Friday. All donors will receive free drinks, food, a T-shirt and a pass to the Museum of Horrors Haunted House while supplies last.