A different take to on-site blood drive

HOSA holds a virtual blood drive with the American Red Cross


Photo courtesy of Jeanne Meyer

HOSA members volunteering for past blood drives, helping donors sign in and get registered. “We have not had our HOSA students volunteering at the drives this year,” HOSA sponsor Jeanne Meyer said. “All blood drives have been off-site so our West students did not ‘work’ the blood drives like they have in years past, however, they still volunteer their time in recruiting donors.”

Michelle Zhang, Staff Reporter

Millard West’s HOSA has coordinated with the American Red Cross to hold blood drives every school year, gathering donors with the goal of helping patients and individuals in need. This year holds a different aspect: a virtual event. 

Blood drives taking place this year have been held off-site because of COVID-19 restrictions, but this has not stopped the tradition from being held. Donors from around the community are still highly encouraged to go out and give blood, even if the event is not held at Millard West. 

“Virtual blood drives are where a sponsor [school, business, church, etc.] recruit blood donors for other blood drives in the area,” Red Cross correspondent Trevor Oestmann said. “Because of COVID, we are having a lot of blood drives at places that we normally would not host very many blood drives. [inside malls, hotels, etc.] Sponsors like Millard West recruit donors to go to those blood drives using a trackable link.”

Despite the obstacle of COVID-19, the preparations have not changed as Oestmann works closely with schools to hold each of the events. Much of the prep work includes cooperation between both the school and Red Cross. 

“Blood Drive planning starts very early, in about a month I will be reaching out to all my schools to see what dates work for their 2021-22 school year,” Oestmann said.  “Then, from there, about 8 to 12 weeks before the blood drive, I meet with the person at the school running the blood drive and we go over recruitment ideas, I give them some posters and educational materials, we also talk about the logistics of the blood drive (when our staff will be there to set up, how many volunteers we need, how many tables and chairs we need, what the temp needs to be in the gym). After that, I check in about once a week to make sure everything is going smoothly and come up with new ideas if the sign-ups are slowing down. Millard West normally has three blood drives in a year and has been doing it so long it goes very smoothly. The process does go a little bit different for new blood drives and blood drives that are smaller.”

Millard West plays a big role in the recruitment process as donors are made up of students, parents, staff members, etc. From the three blood drives, the same agenda and goals of helping others in need stay in place. Gathering individuals to donate is one step, but ensuring they actually show up for their appointments is critical. 

“The recruiting donors is what the Red Cross relies on Millard West the most,” Oestmann said. “If the Red Cross signs someone up to donate blood there is a 40% chance they will show up but if Millard West asks someone to donate blood there is a 90-95% chance they will show up. We very much rely on our sponsors to help us.”

While holding these blood drives has always been a necessity for the well-being of others, blood donations are now more important than ever before, especially in such an unprecedented time like this current pandemic. Without blood donations, different scenarios would have to be left unattended. 

“Donating continues to be vitally important to our community and those in need,” HOSA sponsor Jeanne Meyer said. “Blood products continue to be needed for trauma victims as well as those in need of blood transfusions, the Red Cross is also asking those who have fully recovered from a verified COVID-19 diagnosis, to donate convalescent plasma. This type of donation may help up to four coronavirus patients in need. Donors are in critical need at this time and can help those who are hospitalized from COVID-19 to recover. Convalescent plasma therapy uses blood from people who have recovered from the illness to help others recover.”

For Millard West, the individuals who do want to donate can follow a simple process to book an appointment. Compared to past years, HOSA members could be seen going from classroom to classroom, finding students to sign up on the spot, however, this year has been different because of the virtual aspect of the blood drive. 

“The biggest difference to the registration process is that donors can sign up directly through the Millard West link, which will take them to the Red Cross site to sign up,” Meyer said. “We are urging anyone who wants to donate to use our link as those units collected will go directly toward Millard West’s total units collected.”

Signing up through Millard West also provides an incentive for students, not only laying out an opportunity to give the gift of life but also a monetary benefit. 

“The more units collected from Millard West (by using the provided link), the more scholarship money can be earned from the American Red Cross which can benefit our students here at Millard West,” Meyer said. “By using the link, Millard West will earn money towards a Red Cross scholarship. Anyone can sign up to donate, not just Millard West students and parents. This is open to any eligible donor.”

While this is an extra aspect to blood donation, individuals who volunteer can save up to three lives, and help other people recover from certain medical circumstances. There is also free food offered to patients, so they are able to revitalize their bodies. 

“I chose to donate blood because I wanted to help someone in need so I thought giving my blood would be the easiest way to help out,” senior Brian Tran said. “I was very nervous about donating blood since I had a fear of needles and I knew that there was going to be a big one involved. I took a lot of deep breaths and reminded myself that everything would be fine since there were nurses all around me. For those that are looking to donate blood or are thinking about it, you should! Your blood will help save lives, and you also get free food after you get it drawn.”

Giving blood is an experience in itself, especially with initial anxiety for first-time donors, but once the experience is over, participants can walk away knowing they did make a difference.  Blood supply is a necessity in hospitals and treatment centers, especially in a time like this. 

“As a staff member, I have around 200 blood drives a year,” Oestmann said. “I know the ins and outs of blood drives. For a donor, especially a first-time donor, it can be a little scary getting a needle stuck in your arm. I see it every day, but know that once you go through donating for the first time it gets a lot easier (and hurts a lot less than you expect). When I donate blood I like to think that the little stick and sting that the needle gives me is so worth the possibility of saving three lives.”

For people looking to donate for a cause, following the link below is a start to booking an appointment under Millard West.