Cold weather, holiday season make early part of year difficult to collect blood; student orgs assist in blood drives
The month of January has been celebrated as the National Blood Donor Month since 1970. Every year there are thousands of patients who need blood, especially during winter, which is one of the hardest periods to collect blood in.
The seasonal flu and extended holidays cause cancellations of appointments for blood donations. Frigid weather conditions have led to Red Cross cancelling several of its blood drives in January this year, causing a shortfall in several units of blood collected. According to the American Red Cross, more than 41,000 blood donations are needed every day, and every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood.
Student organizations such as the UTD chapter of Alpha Phi Omega, a national co-ed service fraternity, have regularly conducted blood drives on campus.
“I think it is really important for us (to donate blood) especially when we are young,” said Melanie Maurer, former vice president of Alpha Phi Omega. “We are really healthy. We are generally trying to take care of ourselves, and it’s really important at this age to recognize that we can help in this way because maybe at some point in our lives when we get older, if we get unhealthy we really can’t contribute in that way.”
Student organizations conduct blood donation drives on campus about once a month, oftentimes as a community service project, said Kacey Sebeniecher, wellness coordinator at the Student Wellness Center.
The student organizations typically contact the American Red Cross or Carter Blood Supply to conduct a blood drive on campus. Once the schedule for this blood drive is determined, the student organization confirms with the Student Wellness Center on whether any other blood drives are being conducted.
“The only thing that we are responsible for (in the blood drives) is to make sure there are not too many drives happening at a time,” Sebeniecher said. “If there are too many drives happening in January, the blood companies are not going to get enough blood in February.”
Last February, Alpha Phi Omega conducted a blood drive on campus in coordination with Red Cross.
“It was a really good experience trying to get people to donate blood and finding out there are so many people that are excited to donate blood,” Mauer said. “When we were doing our sign ups, we almost had to get a second bus out here on the day of or before the blood drive. So many students signed up.”
Maurer, who led in organizing the blood drive on behalf of Alpha Phi Omega, said the blood drive collected 60-70 units of blood in six to seven hours.
Each Alphi Phi Omega drive had 70-130 student donators, and one pint of blood saves three lives.
According to American Red Cross, blood can be safely donated every 56 days. Individuals who are above the age of 17 and weigh at least 110 pounds and are generally in good health may be eligible to donate.
“I personally like the fact that the blood drives are student-driven,” Sebeniecher said. “It is important for students to feel like they have a hand in helping from start to finish. It is really great to see students taking the step to help out and do a lot of hard work to make sure this happens.”