Students help boost winter blood donations

By Andrew Shull

Pitt senior Chris Stairiker’s blood donation yesterday was more personal than most.

Stairiker… Pitt senior Chris Stairiker’s blood donation yesterday was more personal than most.

Stairiker said he donated blood because he had been sick the past few times the Red Cross held blood drives on campus. He likes to donate because someone he knows received numerous blood transfusions during a four- to five-year fight with leukemia.

“It’s just my way of giving back, I guess,” he said.

Red Cross organizers thought yesterday’s blood drive in the William Pitt Union was especially important because donations often lag during the winter months because of poor weather and other factors, while the demand for blood remains high.

Student volunteers and leaders hoped to collect 50 donations to help the Red Cross meet its collection goals. Last night, organizers reported collecting 36 donations after 48 people tried to give blood. Two donations had to be thrown out, and eight people did not meet donation requirements.

Pitt senior Christian Woods, president of the Red Cross Club, said that as many as 20 percent of people who show up to donate blood are turned away because of the various restrictions on weight and other issues.

Right now, the Red Cross is facing particularly high demands. Bad weather prompted some groups to cancel their drives since the start of the year, causing the Red Cross as a whole to lose an estimated 32,000 units of blood, said Marianne Spampinato, the regional spokeswoman for the group’s Greater Allegheny blood services region.

In the Greater Allegheny region, which covers parts of six states, 1,100 units of blood have failed to be collected for the same reason.

Woods echoed worries about seasonal shortages in blood collection during the drive.

“There is always a greater need for donations in the winter months,” he said.

Woods has been involved with the Red Cross Club since his freshman year. He said that the group tries to organize one blood drive per month.

“One time I was volunteering at a blood drive, and I thanked someone on his way out for donating. He said that he was in an accident and had his life saved by a blood transfusion,” Woods said.

One unusual element of Wednesday’s drive was the inclusion of double red cell donation, a process that only removes red cells from the blood and returns the other parts of the blood along with some saline.

Woods said someone donating double red cells will feel better afterward because the process does not cause the donor to lose any fluids. But it takes about a half hour longer than normal donation. There are also special height and weight requirements, as well as restrictions on the amount of iron in the donor’s blood.

Anita Fitzsimmons, the Red Cross supervisor at yesterday’s blood drive, said her group hoped to collect five double red cell donations, along with 45 whole blood donations.

Those who did donate felt compelled to do so for various reasons. Kim Simone, a fifth-year senior and neuroscience major, was undeterred by past failed attempts to donate. She was deferred in high school because she didn’t meet the weight requirements and was anemic. Wednesday marked only her second time donating, and afterward she felt fine.

She wanted to donate blood on top of other charity work she does with groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Locks of Love.

“I grew up in a really sh*tty part of town,” she said. “So I try to help out any chance I get.”

Other donors like senior psychology major Lindsey Pailin were undeterred by past negative experiences. She cited her small veins as the reason she couldn’t complete her donation in the past. Yesterday however, she completed her donation and felt fine afterward.

Most donors said that while they felt nervous during their first donation, subsequent donations haven’t worried them. Woods said, “The worst part for most people is the finger prick to test your iron levels, and that isn’t even that bad.”