One-day blood drive goes beyond goal

Western Carolina University hosted a blood drive as part of the Chancellor’s Installation Week events on  Tuesday, March 27  and the turnout was greater than expected.

The American Red Cross collected 60 units of blood at Tuesday's blood drive. - Photo by Ben Haines

The drive was open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the A.K. Hinds University Center with the goal of collecting 51 units of blood but ended up with a total of 60.  Seven of those were first-time donors.

“This drive was mainly aimed at staff and faculty,” said Eva Hyatt, team supervisor for the American Red Cross, “but we’ve had a lot of student walk-ins.”

Jessica Chester, a junior, has lost track of how many times she has given blood.  “I’ve probably donated nine or ten times,” she said.

“I think it’s the easiest and most selfless way to save a life,“ said Chester.

Brandy Henning, a graduate student who works on WCU’s IT governance staff, gave blood for the third time on Tuesday.  She recalled being nervous the first time she donated but has since come to enjoy the experience.

“I’m not one of those people that gets lightheaded,” said Henning.  “I feel really awesome for days.”

Tuesday’s blood drive was the second of two unique drives this semester that ran for only one day in the University Center multipurpose room.  The previous single-day drive on January 23, the same day as WCU’s stage and radio production of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, had a goal of 35 units and surpassed it with 44.

The Red Cross typically holds two multi-day blood drives per semester at WCU in the UC grand room with the goal of collecting 100 units of blood each day.  Donors must wait 56 days before they can safely give again and the Red Cross spaces out the drives accordingly.

The first multi-day blood drive this semester took place February 14-16 and the turnout was disappointing, with 77 units collected on the first day, 90 on the second day and 97 on the third.  People who donated during that time will be eligible to give again when the Red Cross holds the next drive at WCU April 24-25 from noon to 5:30 p.m.

Those who gave blood at the January drive were ineligible to donate again in February, which may have contributed to the disappointing turnout.   The January donors qualified to give blood again for Tuesday’s drive.

One major obstacle the Red Cross faces with blood drives is deferrals, when people sign in to give blood but prove to be ineligible for one or more reasons.  For instance, the Red Cross collected 97 units at WCU on February 16 but had to turn 18 ineligible donors away, thereby falling short of the 100-unit goal for that day.

Tuesday’s blood drive had nine deferrals.

According to Hyatt, the most common reason for deferring potential donors is insufficient iron levels in their blood.  Having low iron causes anemia, a deficiency in the number of red blood cells produced by the body, which makes donating blood unsafe.

Hyatt says that eating more iron-rich foods and drinking plenty of water in the days prior to donating blood can prevent anemia.  Some foods rich in iron include beef, spinach, shellfish, and certain breakfast cereals, according to WebMD.

The American Red Cross assigns staff to individual blood drives based on the number of donation appointments scheduled beforehand.  “If we have a lot of appointments, we can get a lot of staff here to help,” said Hyatt.

The need for more donated blood is constant, according to the official Red Cross website.  The organization strives to deliver a monthly quota of blood to hospitals but has fallen short of that goal for the past four months, according to Hyatt.

The Red Cross issues a critical notice when the amount of blood available for urgent transfusion drops below a three-day supply.  That last occurred in December 2011.

Carolyn Deal, Red Cross donor recruitment representative for the Asheville district, offered WCU students instructions on how to set an appointment for the next blood drive.  “Go to, enter the sponsor code 5611 and that will show you everything that’s coming up in western North Carolina,” she said.

Deal encourages anyone in the WCU community who can give blood to set an appointment with the Red Cross for the April 24-25 blood drive.