GCC Students Lend Helping Hand to Red Cross

El Vaquero Staff Writer

The annual blood drive was here with nurses, needles, donors and Bonnie Sandez, an associate director for the Red Cross, directing the event.

As some participating students waited patiently, filling out the required forms, others lay on their backs as nurses slowly injected a needle into the prepped students’ veins located below the elbow joint. Those giving blood lay silently, chuckled, and even read text books as they gave their blood.

“You’re saving people’s lives,” said Joan Choriego, technician for the Red Cross, right before she checked a volunteer’s blood pouch.
“Donating blood is vital…I donate every 56 days,” said Sandez.
Sandez commented on the significance of donating blood when recalling an experience of how her daughter’s life, at one point, depended on the blood she would receive at a hospital. “I’ll never know who donated that blood…it happens everyday for so many people.”

Though everyone is encouraged to donate blood, there are restrictions known as indefinite deferrals and temporary deferrals, which prevent a volunteer from donating blood.

Indefinite referrals include anything that is considered health hazardous for giving blood such as males who have had sex with other males since 1977 (due to the threat of HIV) or those who have spent three or more cumulative months in the U.K. from 1980 through 1996.
Those who have had a fever with a headache in the past week or who have visited a malarial-endemic area within the past year will be temporarily deferred (prohibited from giving blood for a period of time).

Between indefinite deferrals and temporary deferrals the American Red Cross Southern California Blood Services Region requires all blood donors to be at least 17 years old and weigh a minimum of 110 pounds.
The GCC Blood Drive does not cost the college any expenses or resources since the Red Cross budgets facilities, equipment, staff, donor recruitment, blood processing and delivery. All service fees paid by hospitals that receive donated blood cover Red Cross expenses.
Blood donated will be sent to hospitals where it will be processed and then put to use for blood transfusions for patients in need.
Blood may also be used for replication or extraction of red blood cells, plasma, platelets and white blood cells.

Platelets can be used in cancer treatment. Plasma, white blood cells, and red blood cells can be used for transfusions for those who have suffered an excessive loss of blood.

Processing blood takes days and is done to extract key elements that make up blood for use in the medical world.

Donating blood is always open to eligible students, staff and the general public. The blood drive held on campus on Tuesday received 63 usable units of blood, where as GCC’s previous Red Cross blood drive attained 37 usable units of blood.

However, the college normally has a lack of donors. Hundreds of students usually donate blood out of the several thousands attending GCC who could have met the Red Cross requirements to donate.

Those who don’t have the time to donate during the on-campus blood drives can leave an e-mail or phone number and be informed of when another blood drive will take place.

“The problem is people donate only when it involves them, so awareness is vital,” said Jim Sartoris, division chair of health and physical education and a former donor.

There has been a 40 percent decline of donors in the Southern California area for the past three years.

“Yesterday we [Red Cross] had less than a one day supply of 0 negative blood,” said Sandoz.
Yet there are students who continuously advocate the blood drive. “It’s a great idea…we always need more resources,” said Pat Zivelonghi, 21, a former donor and GCC student.

GCC’s health department also plays a large role in advocating the blood drive. “This has been an activity that has been going on for 30 years,” said Sartoris. “In the past we have tired to encourage our students to participate.”

Some GCC health professors go the extra distance to raise awareness about the importance of giving blood by offering extra credit to students for donating. I give twenty [extra credit] points,” said Steve C. Coots, a health 104 professor.

The blood drive gives professors an opportunity to inform their students about donating blood. “I was so scared…I was afraid of passing out,” said James Vega as he was donating blood with a smile on his face.

“You don’t make blood…it comes from somewhere,” said Sartoris. “They [students] become aware of the process.”

“Donating is very necessary,” said Coots. Coots commented on the effects of donating a pint of blood: “Giving blood doesn’t have much of an effect on the body,” he said. “They [Red Cross] give you juice and cookies afterwards.”

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Alan Fowler a volunteer who has donated blood 156 times. Anne Mkrtehyan, ASGCC senator of campus activities who helped coordinate the event with the Red Cross commented: “There are some people who need [blood] every single day,” she said. “It’s not just for people who need it once.”