The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday August 15th

Facing low donation rates, Red Cross seeks more blood

13 blood drives planned for Orange County this month

Willis Brooks, a retired Russian history professor, donated blood 10 days ago.

The donation brings his lifetime total to 162 pints, equaling about 20 gallons and saving up to 486 lives.

“I cannot think why I started, but I know why I kept it up,” Brooks said.

And based on recent data, the American Red Cross needs more people like Brooks.

This year, blood donations have fallen behind by 3,200 units for the Carolinas region and more than 30,000 units nationwide — and the shortage is getting worse.

Typically, the organization receives fewer blood donations in the winter, but January’s blood collections were the lowest in a decade, according to the Red Cross website.

In response, the Orange County Red Cross has 13 blood drives scheduled for March.

“It is a tremendous way people can give back to their community,” said Debbie Estes, spokeswoman for the Carolinas Red Cross branch.

A pint of donated blood can save up to three people, and the organization also collects plasma and platelet donations.

Platelets are the portion of the blood that acts as a clotting factor.

Kelly Hogan, a biology lecturer, teaches an APPLES course on community donations of the cellular components of blood.

Students in the class learn about blood types, components and disorders while reaching out to students, faculty and the community.

“They all become my little mini-recruiters,” Hogan said. “We’re just trying to get people to become regular donors.”

Hogan knows the importance of donating blood because seven years ago, she was fighting for her life in UNC Hospitals due to massive hemorrhaging after giving birth to her son. Platelet donations saved Hogan’s life.

“Ever since then, it has sort of been my mission to get people more aware of the platelet donation process,” Hogan said. “If I educate a few people, they can educate a few more.”

UNC Hospitals transfuses about 6,100 blood units a month, said Tom Nish, supervisor of UNC blood donation.

Between 60 percent to 70 percent of donations at the UNC Hospitals Blood Center come from students, he said.

While the center has not experienced particularly low donations this winter, summers and breaks pose a challenge because of high dependence on student donations, he said.

“The physicians are being selective about where the products go,” Nish said.

“We sometimes have to get it from other sources.”

Hogan said she wishes she could donate, but her blood disorder makes it impossible. Instead, she decided to devote herself to spreading the word.

Brooks said he donates five to six times a year, or every 60 days.
One of his most memorable donations occurred when Brooks was the in the army and one of his fellow soldiers had been injured and needed a blood transfusion.

Brooks, being blood type O-, was asked to donate.

“My blood went out from me, then it passed through a machine and into the patient,” he said.

His help didn’t end there. He once struck a deal with an Indiana hospital to reduce a friend’s medical bill depending on the amount of blood he could get people to donate.

He raised more than 100 pints.

“I think you can be creative in the way you donate,” he said.

Contact the City Editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

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