Zach Petroff | Opinions Editor
By the time you are done reading this sentence, at least two Americans will be in need of blood.
The Red Cross estimates that every two seconds someone in the U.S. requires a blood transfusion, and the nation is reaching a dangerously low supply of blood. That caused the nonprofit organization to announce a national blood shortage on Sept. 11.
“This is the worst national blood shortage we have seen since January 2022,” said Nicole Roschella, the regional communications manager of the Red Cross. “Donor turnout dropped on the heels of one of the busiest travel seasons on record, back-to-school activities and an already active hurricane season.”
Last week the Tribune-Review reported that blood collection organizations are claiming that donations are down at least 25%, a continuing trend since the pandemic.
In an effort to combat the critical shortage of blood supplies, the nonprofit blood and biotherapies healthcare organization, Vitalant, hosted a blood drive in the Africa Room of the Duquesne Union on Wednesday. While walk-ins were accepted, potential donors were asked to schedule an appointment in advance to maximize the amount of donations for the five-hour blood drive. Nurse supervisor Celeste Brown considered the drive a success with a total of 36 pints of blood collected.
“Anything over single digits is good,” Brown said. “When you donate a pint of blood, you save three lives.”
This September blood drive is the first of a series over the current academic year that will enable the Duquesne community to support the heightened need of blood resources in the Pittsburgh region, said Alia Pustorino-Clevenger director of the center for community engaged teaching and research.
The Africa room featured a steady flow of blood donors throughout the afternoon, taking less than an hour to complete the transaction. Students motivation to give blood varied some donated because of the blood shortage, while others experienced first hand the importance of giving blood.
“My papa passed away from leukemia,” said first-year student Molly Topa. “He’d always get blood transfusions so now that’s my motivation to do it.”
Junior nursing student Sloane Wells was also inspired by a personal family experience.
“I’ve donated several times before,” Wells said. “Whenever my brother was born, my mother’s life was saved because she was given several units of blood. Without that being available to her she wouldn’t be here today.”
Maxwell Fischer, a junior nursing student who tries to donate blood every three or four months, knows firsthand from working in hospitals how important donating blood can be.
“I just know blood is vital for everything, especially for emergency situations,” Fischer said. “There’s always a shortage of blood, so I want to do anything I can do to help. I want to do something that’s bigger than me.”
According to Roschella, people can give blood every 56 days. However blood only has a shelf life of 42 days, thus the urgency for new blood donors.
“Blood product distributions to hospitals are outpacing the number of blood donations coming in, and distributions of some of the most needed blood types to hospitals have been reduced in recent weeks,” Roschella said. “The Red Cross is working with hospitals around–the-clock to meet the blood needs of patients, but we can’t do it alone.”
First-year student Jacqueline Maendel was one of the donors to give for the first time. Motivated by convenience and her experience with a high school friend who often needed transfusions, Maendel said she was pleased with how smooth the process to donate was.
“It was much easier than I thought it would be honestly,” Maendel said. “It really didn’t affect me that much because I have had blood drawn before.”
It was not just students who were willing to give blood. Faculty members like Paul Doerksen participated in Wednesday’s drive. The music education professor said blood drives aligned with Duquesne’s mission statement.
“We talk about serving the community and serving others,” Doerksen said. “It’s a good way to do it. We’re a community here on the bluff with a lot of capabilities so I think this is kind of a natural thing to do.”
Along with helping others, donating blood is a way to tell what type of blood you have.
“It’s one of the perks of giving blood,” said Roschella. “In about two or three days we’ll let you know what your blood type is, which can come in handy in case of emergency.”
And for those worried about donating, first time donor Olivia Wegrzynowicz offered this advice.
“It only hurts for a second,” Wegrzynowicz said. “It’s not really uncomfortable. You kind of get to chill while you do it, and if you’re uncomfortable just look away.”
Fischer also had similar advice.
“Just have trust and faith,” Fischer said. “Don’t worry about them sticking you with a needle,.Remember that you’re giving blood for someone else. Try not to think about the moment, think about the future and what you can do for someone else.”
For those looking to donate blood can visit RedCrossBlood.org.
Duquesne’s next blood drive is scheduled for Oct. 9 in the Africa Room from noon to 5 p.m.