Saving lives: Red Cross gathers vital donations from region

NORTHVILLE – “It doesn’t hurt, it’s safe and you can save lives,” volunteer Haley Monacchio said as she handed cookies and juice to recent blood donors.

Monacchio was one of the National Honor Society members holding a blood drive with the Red Cross in the Northville High School gym Thursday. The 16-year-old, who recently had spinal surgery, said she realized how important blood donation was after she received one herself.

“At first I was afraid of needles, now it doesn’t bother me. I would love to give blood as often as I can,” she said.

Supervisor of Operations for the Albany Red Cross Heather Dawne said less than five percent of the population donates. An average of one pint is given per donation.

“One unit [of blood] can save three lives,” she said.

The Albany Red Cross has eight trucks which travel throughout communities gathering blood during local drives. Dawne said the Red Cross is always looking for opportunities to hold these drives at different facilities. People are more likely to donate if it’s available in their “backyard”, she explained. The white truck with the red cross will be seen in Broadalbin, Amsterdam, Fonda and Gloversville in the upcoming months.

The National Honor Society holds an event at the Northville Central School twice a year.

Kathryn Coupas, co-advisor of the honor society, said there were at least 47 participants.

“It’s mostly students who give back,” she said.

According to the Red Cross, in most states you have to be 17-years-old to donate blood. A 16-year-old with parental consent is eligible to give blood in New York state. Donors must meet specific weight requirements and be in generally good health. Participants may also donate platelets, plasma and double red cells. In-depth explanations about weight for age and type of donation is available on the Red Cross’s website, redcrossblood.org. Each person can have one of eight different blood types.

“A lot of kids were eligible last spring and they came back. Some kids have come back for a fourth or fifth time,” Coupas said.

She told a story about a girl who wanted to find out if she was eligible to donate blood to her grandmother who was in need of transfusions. There are eight possible blood types and donors and recipients must match. Group O is most popular, because it’s universally accepted by all types, according to the Red Cross.

Coupas said the girl was able to use a smart phone application, Blood Donor by American Red Cross, to see where her blood was sent.

“We are trying to get people donating at a younger age. We promote it in the village and the school. I think people were more excited than scared,” Monacchio said.

Two of her classmates were waiting to donate. Each person was required to sign in, read an informational handout and show a form of identification before going in the privacy booth. In the booth participants answered questions regarding their health history and recent travels. Temperature, pulse and blood pressure are also checked before you donate.

Jill Hadland said this is her second time giving blood.

“It’s doing something nice that matters,” she said.

The fear of acquiring or spreading diseases is a misconception Hadland said keeps people from donating.

“Which isn’t true,” she said.

Each donor’s blood is collected with a sterile needle, which is only used once. The blood is also tested to make sure it’s safe to be distributed. Donors who are confirmed to have an infectious disease would be contacted, according to the Red Cross.

Karlie Foster, who was waiting with Hadland, said her mom suggested that she donate.

“People need to get past the initial thought of it and look at the bigger picture,” she said.

Red Cross data states that an estimated 38 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood at any given time, but less than 10 percent of that eligible population donates each year.

Barry Fordyce, from Edinburg, layed on a gurney waiting to give blood. His daughter Morgan Fordyce, who’s also a National Honor Society member asked him to come.

” I think some people are nervous because they don’t like needles,” Fordyce said as a woman prepared his arm for the donation, which takes 8 to 10 minutes.

He barley flinched during the process.

“It doesn’t really bother you,” he said.

Fordyce was able to leave about 10 minutes after his donation was completed. He ate trail mix and drank juice while waiting for his daughter to finish answering questions prior to her donation.

According to the Red Cross, participants must wait a variable length of time to donate again based on which type of donation they gave. More information is available on redcrossblood.org.

This was Morgan Fordyce’s second time giving blood. She laid on the gurney where her father donated 20 minutes earlier.

“I didn’t have a reason not to, she said. If more people knew about it, they would probably come and donate too.”

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