By Suzzanne Bigelow, Class of 2025
What will you be giving this holiday?
Alexis Adolf was born with Von Willebrand’s Disease, a bleeding disorder that results in low levels of clotting protein in the blood, causing abnormal bleeding. Initially, Alexis was advised to refrain from physical activity, including a child’s rite of passage of learning how to ride a bike and exploring the world from the view of a tree branch. However, her mom decided that if her daughter were running out of sand in her hourglass, she would enjoy those last few years, so she climbed up those tree branches with her sister and even played soccer.
She is currently a sophomore at the University of Arizona and has learned to coexist with her bleeding disorder. When she has bled three times throughout the day, in a week, or a single bleed lasts longer than thirty minutes, it indicates to Adolf that it’s time for a blood infusion. Finding, hitting, and keeping a vein can sometimes be difficult, so she typically visits the hospital four times a year rather than independently infusing blood that she grew accustomed to growing up.
“I am very appreciative of everyone who donates blood, even if they’re only doing it for a paycheck. Blood donation is a lot safer than it used to be, and donated blood is pretty much the only thing keeping me alive. I developed allergies very quickly to other medication I was taking, so blood product is my only option,” Adolf said.
Since 2011 blood donating organizations have seen a decline of almost 20% in their donors. While each donor can help save three lives, this decrease in donors has significantly impacted hospitals since the heavy demand for blood has not changed.
“With no substitute for blood, we need new donors to help maintain blood needs and save the lives of accident and trauma victims, patients receiving cancer treatment and burn and shock patients,” said Katrina Eaton, a blood drive coordinator for Vitalant.
However, on top of the general decline of donors throughout the years, blood donations also seem to take a hit in the months of winter.
On average, 6000 fewer donations are given in December than the rest of the year, with most of the shortfall in the last two weeks of the month. This drop is due to vacations taken by regular donors and one of their largest drive groups of high schools and universities being out of session. Also, because of the cold and flu season, some eligible donors don’t donate during this time.
Along with the annual toll blood banks take during the flu season, the COVID-19 pandemic has notably affected the flow of blood donations.
Many blood drive coordinators such as Eaton rely on hosted blood drives throughout her community; however, with the hit of COVID-19, many groups before the pandemic have not been able to resume blood drive events. Although other groups such as schools and donation centers have resumed activities and follow COVID-19 screening guidelines to ensure all donors remain safe during their donation, according to the National Institutes of Health.
To attract new donors, big organizations such as Vitalant created a recognition program, a collection of points earned that can redeem gift cards by donating blood through their company.
Smaller groups, such as Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, give donors $5 dollar gift cards on some occasions. In early November, a blood drive organized by this hospital was hosted on the campus of Saint Peter’s University. To encourage potential donors, organizers offered the same incentive of the five-dollar gift card for Starbucks to all those that donated.
In the halls of Gannon on the Saint Peter’s University campus, in the final hour of the event, donors only occupied four out of the nine seats.
“It’s been a steady flow like throughout the day,” said one of the nurses that tested student and staff iron levels to see if they were eligible to donate.
Many students typically rationalized not donating by either saying they couldn’t fit it into their schedule or that they were simply uncomfortable with needles.
However, one of the few students who donated that day was freshman Jayden Easingwood. She is passionate about helping others and wishes to work as a social worker in the future.
“It’s one of those things that I am able to do at no cost to myself or anyone else, but it is so vital, and it’s hard for me to understand why other able-bodied people wouldn’t want to donate as well,” said Easingwood.
Thankfully for Adolf and others that rely on blood donations, this freshman at Saint Peter’s University is a regular blood donor and encourages those around her to donate as well. Because of Adolf’s allergies to other medications that could help her with her blood disorder, she lives on borrowed blood from those that are generous enough to offer it.
According to the Red Cross, only 2% of the country donates blood. If you would like to be a blood donor contact the Red Cross at https://www.redcrossblood.org.