Earlier this month, Valpo Residential Life (ResLife) partnered with the American Red Cross to hold their biannual blood drive. This year, 92 members of the VU community donated, from which 84 pints of blood were collected. As each donation can help three patients, this amount will be able to save a total of 252 lives.
First time donors constituted a significant number of those who attended.
“Out of the donors who came that day, 24 of them were first-time donors and that is incredible,” said Trisha Cochran, Representative for the American Red Cross. “We love to see first-time donors coming in trying it for the first time and then hopefully becoming a lifelong donor.”
This year’s blood drive looked somewhat different from previous years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Space is one of them [the changes]. They can only have so many employees there, as well as the beds needed to be spaced out a certain amount. They're taking temperatures of each person at the door, so if you walked in right now, there's actually a machine that's taking your temperature. And obviously everyone's wearing masks,” Katie Bye, director of ResLife, said.
All donors received a COVID-19 antibody test and a $5 Amazon gift card (a practice Amazon is continuing at blood drives throughout February). The antibody tests are being conducted by the Red Cross for a number of different reasons
“We test every donation for COVID antibodies. And so we do that for two reasons: one, then the donors can find out whether or not they have COVID antibodies, in other words, have been exposed to COVID. And then also, we are able to use the COVID antibody positive donations to help with COVID patients,” Cochran said.
Donors can see the results of their antibody tests by downloading the American Red Cross Blood Donor App. Another one of the app’s features is that it can track where someone’s blood went, or the “blood journey.”
“If a donor makes their appointment through the app - their next appointment for example - then many times, the app will trace where their donation went and tell that donor that their donation ended up at, you know, Northwest Health Porter Hospital or Lurie Children's Hospital... it traces their blood journey,” Cochran said.
Blood drives are also opportunities for students interested in volunteering.
“I love it when college students want to help at blood drives. We always need people to greet the donors, help get them registered. And it's very flexible, so I think it's a good opportunity for college students to volunteer because they can pick and choose from a list of blood drives that's good for their schedule. There's not a long term commitment,” Cochran said.
During the blood drive on Feb. 12, Bye thanked those who donated and also encouraged others to do so.
“I think we're really happy that so many people came out to support. It’s really great to see the Valpo community sign up for others. I encourage people if you're a first time donor, the next time we have a blood drive on campus to see there is a really good cause that's relatively easy to support,” Bye said.
In the Valparaiso area, future dates include a VU blood drive sponsored by Fraternity & Sorority Life (FSL) on Apr. 22. Regular drives are done at St. Theresa Catholic Student Center (adjacent to campus) and Washington Evangelical Free Church.
For more information on blood drives, or to find one locally, go to redcrossblood.org.