The red stuff
Students who are too busy to donate their time, food, or skills to help other Pittsburgh residents in need have another option — donating blood.
Last Tuesday, the Doctors of Carnegie (DOCs) organized a blood drive in which representatives from Central Blood Bank took blood from about 28 students, staff, and faculty in Rangos 3 in the University Center from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
DOCs is a student organization devoted to increasing health awareness on campus and serving the campus community in health-related ways, according to the group’s website.
The blood drive was the second that the blood bank has held at Carnegie Mellon in the past two weeks. On February 19, the organization held an emergency drive for which students who donated were compensated by Carnegie Mellon with $5 gift certificates.
A critical blood shortage has fueled the recent increase in drives by Central Blood Bank. Although the shortage has merited “emergency action” on the part of blood banks, such conditions are not unusual at this time of year.
“We typically see a decrease in [blood] giving during the winter,” said Brooke Kubiak, business development representative for Central Blood Bank.
Bank. Donors are less willing to leave their homes when it’s cold outside, or too busy to think of donating during the holiday season, which contributes to the decreased rate of donations, Kubiak explained.
In addition, more donations are needed during winter months because of the increased frequency of car accidents, which means an increase in the number of victims who may require emergency transfusions.
Central Blood Bank runs at least one drive per month on campus, and even more when there are blood shortages. The Red Cross also runs drives on campus regularly; however, unlike Central Blood Bank, a non-profit organization that collects for the city of Pittsburgh, the Red Cross ships the blood it collects to hospitals outside of Pittsburgh.
Blood drives come to the Carnegie Mellon campus so often because a substantial portion of the Carnegie Mellon community has consistently donated blood each month, Kubiak said.
“I love coming to CMU,” Kubiak said. “Everybody here is so helpful.”
Many of the drives here are organized by groups on campus whose members invite the blood banks, organize public relations, book the rooms, and even give blood themselves.
Last Tuesday’s drive was organized by Danielle Eytan, a sophomore biology major and vice-president of volunteering for DOCs. The group holds one blood drive every year.
“I sent out a lot of e-mails, put up flyers, made a Facebook event, and went around personally asking people I know to give,” Eytan said.
While she did not know much about blood drives when she joined DOCs, Eytan said she has learned a lot through her interaction with Central Blood Bank. At last Tuesday’s drive, she even gave blood for the first time.
“There’s just such a need right now,” Eytan said.
In addition to the work of organizations, it is the goodwill of members of the Carnegie Mellon community, particularly students who choose to give blood, that keeps the blood bank coming back.
Although the drives welcome walk-ins and first-time givers, many of the donors present already give on a regular basis.
“I only gave once last semester,” said computer science graduate student Brian Hirshman. “Definitely not as often as I should.”
Junior information systems major Paul O’Shannessy has given blood at least four times over the past three years.
“Other people need it, and I’m doing just fine,” O’Shannessy said. “Everybody should give blood.”
However, Central Blood Bank is constantly seeking new donors. The organization is the sole provider for all the hospitals in the Pittsburgh region, of which there are over 40.
Even without a shortage, the bank requires donations from at least 725 people per day to meet the need for blood.
For many students, fear is the major obstacle to donating for the first time. Even Eytan, who organized the event, expressed concerns.
“Yeah, I’m nervous,” Eytan said. “I hate needles.”
More experienced donors were able to brush off the fear.
“Yeah, the needle still freaks me out, but you just feel it a little bit,” O’Shannessy said, grabbing a cookie and a few minutes’ rest after donating. “The first time I donated, I felt a little weak and I had to lay down after a while, but that was it.”
Despite the fears of many first-time donors, giving blood is usually a painless and risk-free endeavor. To avoid becoming lightheaded after donating, make sure to eat one or two hours before giving blood and stay hydrated, said Kristina Crapp, a nurse for Central Blood Bank.
“Usually people feel fine after 15 minutes, and blood regeneration starts immediately after you give,” Crapp said.
Correction: The article originally stated that students were compensated with $5 in cash or entry in a lottery to win as much as $300. This information is inaccurate. Students were given $5 gift certificates by Carnegie Mellon.