Really giving from the heart

A local blood mobile makes it easy to offer up a pint

December 18, 2008|By Susan Gvozdas | Susan Gvozdas,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Kyle Herring, a 17-year-old high school junior, sat down yesterday in Anne Arundel Medical Center's blood mobile to donate his fifth pint of blood in the past year.

The blood mobile is becoming a regular fixture at the Center for Applied Technology-South in Edgewater since medical center administrators realized that Herring and other return donors have made the school the largest contributor to the blood mobile in Anne Arundel County.

Since the medical center launched the blood mobile in July 2007, students at CAT-South have donated 189 pints to the program. St. John's College students come in second with a donation of 146 pints. Anne Arundel Community College students contributed 100 pints.

The contributions might seem small when compared with the roughly 150 units of blood that are donated weekly at the hospital's Blood Donor Center. But the blood mobile helps make up for a blood donation shortfall by making donation more convenient.

Herring, who studies building construction, said he just wanted to set an example for other classmates in Skills USA, a student group that promotes a skilled work force and voluntarism. The blood drive is part of the group's agenda at the school.

"It's really healthy," said Herring, who attends South River High School.

Like Herring, junior David Lanier made his fifth donation yesterday. He and his friend have been donating since the mobile first started coming to the school last year.

"I did it because I thought it was something everyone should do," said Lanier, also a South River student.

Both students are in Bob Sampson's building construction course. The students build sheds during the school year and work on portable classrooms.

Sampson has donated nearly five gallons of blood over the years and has become friends with medical center staff. He said he wanted to show students how much good they can do in their neighborhoods.

"They could be helping their friends, family and everyone else," said Sampson, who scheduled three drives during the past school year. "A lot of the kids are apprehensive at first, but then they see a lot of their friends doing it, and they want to do it."

Since Anne Arundel Medical Center launched its blood mobile last year, it has not only paid for itself, it is saving the hospital money.

Blood mobile staff collected 2,250 pints of blood in fiscal year 2008. That donated blood saved the medical center from having to pay for blood from the Red Cross and other sources. The savings to the hospital was about $900,000, more than enough to pay the $250,000 cost of the blood mobile, said Selma Otto, coordinator of the blood mobile. The rest of the money can be devoted to other medical center projects, such as expanding the emergency room and upgrading the neonatal unit, she said.

Despite donations given at the hospital's Blood Donor Center, the medical center had to order 3,500 additional pints of blood for patients in fiscal year 2007, at a cost of $1.4 million, Otto said.

The medical center gets more than 20 units of blood each time it visits CAT-South, Otto said. On a regular donation drive, the blood mobile may get only four or five pints in a day.

Otto attributes the high participation to the example set by faculty and staff at CAT-South. Debbie Wooster, a teacher assistant in Sampson's class, has donated three times. Her mother is being treated for cancer at the medical center.

"A lot of cancer patients need blood," Wooster said.

Because of the time needed to donate and the limited space to lie down afterward, the blood mobile had to spread its CAT-South blood drive over two days for the past two visits. The blood mobile collected about 40 pints Friday and yesterday.

Blood donors have to be 16 years old, which limits donations mainly to juniors and seniors. The blood donation counts toward the students' community service requirement needed to graduate.

Nick Scabis, a junior from South River, said he was nervous the first time he gave blood in September at CAT-South. When he donated blood this week, he checked his cell phone while the intravenous tube took blood from his arm.

"I just like to help out," Scabis said. "People need it."

BLOOD MOBILE VISITS

A Bank Annapolis blood drive will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. today at 1000 Bestgate Road in Annapolis. The blood mobile also will visit Bruster's Real Ice Cream, at 1409 Forest Drive, Annapolis, from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 30. Bruster's is donating a pint of ice cream to all blood donors - a "pint for a pint." Those interested in being host to the AAMC blood mobile or who have questions regarding blood donation, contact Selma Otto at 443-481-4272 or send e-mail to sotto@aahs.org.

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