Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood, whether it be for cancer treatment or traumatic injuries. That’s the time it took to read that sentence. However, the country is facing a massive blood shortage, due to the all-time low registration of donors.
Amid the Omicron surge in January 2022, the American Red Cross declared its first-ever blood crisis because of a 10% pandemic-induced decrease in donations, forcing doctors to delay blood transfusions for those in critical need and make the difficult decisions of who receives treatment first.
Students at Saint Francis are taking matters into their own hands. On October 26, the Future Medical Students Association (FMSA) partnered with the Red Cross to host the second Red Cross Blood Drive since the pandemic struck, allowing Saint Francis students and teachers to donate blood to contribute to the cause.
Donors choose between different types of donations—the most common was a whole blood donation, consisting of a mixture of red cells, white cells, platelets, and plasma. Mr. David Cobb, science teacher and wrestling coach at Saint Francis, partook in a special type of donation using the Alyx machine. The device extracts only the red blood cells and returns the rest to the donor’s bloodstream. This method allows for the collection of two units of blood rather than one, which Mr. Cobb thought was “an opportunity to possibly help more people.”
The drive was not only made possible by donors but also by student volunteers. Hannah Morrisoe (’23), a volunteer and prior donor, shared that she was “interested in medical occupations and enjoyed seeing the blood donation process from an outsider’s perspective when [she] wasn’t donating.”
The planning process was extensive, according to FMSA board members. Planning began in the summer because of the sheer amount of coordination required. The lost time due to the pandemic also motivated the board to restart the event. FMSA board member Ajay Krishnan (’23) mentioned that for the April 2022 blood drive, it was inspiring to see “people from even outside the school helping out and how much students, even if they couldn’t donate, really wanted to be a part of it.” This enthusiasm inspired the club to make the event annual.
To plan the event, the club met with their Red Cross liaison Camila Columna to discuss the logistics of hosting the event at Saint Francis. After establishing dates, the club booked required facilities, such as the Burns Gym, six months in advance and opened sign-ups to donors three months later. The Red Cross provides all required equipment, while the FMSA coordinates with all potential donors.
Board members, volunteers, and donors all agreed that learning about the direct impact of their work was the most gratifying part of the experience. Krishnan added, “After the drive, we will get a count of how much blood in terms of units we collected, and we’ll get information about who it helped across the country.” Donations also have a local impact, as blood drives help facilities such as El Camino Hospital that have to ration blood due to low supply.
The Blood Drive is the largest event that the FMSA hosts, but the club also hopes to get the Saint Francis community CPR-certified by sponsoring training sessions. In addition to hosting bi-monthly meetings to discuss various topics related to the biological sciences and health, FMSA organizes guest speaker events and research symposiums for the school community. Whether it is through their programs or other immersive learning opportunities, the FMSA seeks to continue sharing its passion for medicine at Saint Francis.