Bloodanooga seeks blood, bone marrow donors

By Esan Swan, Chattanooga, TN—UTC and Blood Assurance teamed up again this year to get your blood, but it’s really not as bad it sounds.

Photo by Shelby Lehman Have a pint: Freshman Alex Ingram donates blood as a part of Bloodanooga, a three day event, Wednesday afternoon in the Tennessee Room of the UC.
Photo by Shelby Lehman
Have a pint: Freshman Alex Ingram donates blood as a part of Bloodanooga, a three day event, Wednesday afternoon in the Tennessee Room of the UC.

Bloodanooga, the three-day blood drive, took place on campus in the Tennessee Room of the UC from March 4 to March 6.

Rhonda Moore, a bone marrow representative and Blood Assurance support specialist, said last year the drive brought in close to 800 donors in two days.

Moore said everyone was welcome to donate if they met the requirements.

She said those not able to donate because of those requirements include people, who are taking blood thinners, had a tattoo in Alabama or in Georgia and a few others. For those who have had tattoos in Georgia or Alabama, there is a six month to one year wait because of looser regulations.

“O-negative is the universal donor,” Moore said. “We’re always looking for O-negative because it’s used for first-responders, because everyone can accept it. Often times, first-responders don’t have time to check everyone’s blood so they always keep that.”

However, she said O-negative blood type could only receive O-negative blood types, and because there is such a need they are always in demand.

“Students’ blood is usually just good,” Moore said. “It’s not been exposed to any kind of ailments out there and they’re healthier than some of the other age groups.”

People who gave whole blood donated a pint and students who gave only red-blood cells donated two pints, she said.

Moore said the blood drives are well received because they are located in an area where people have easy access, with some peer pressure, and when someone donates they feel better.

Doing community drives are helpful, she said, because Blood Assurance supplies 32 hospitals in approximately 50 counties, and are in need of 400 pints of blood a day.

Along with the blood drive, students can also sign up to be on the bone marrow registry list.

“Bone marrow is the substance in the middle of your bones,” Carla Lewis, a bone marrow representative, said. “It produces stem cells, which are nothing more than immature red cells, white cells and platelets.”

“The reason why we need those are when someone has lymphoma, leukemia [or] sickle-cell disease, their stem cells are diseased, so at the point where they need a bone marrow transplant, they’re going to die without it,” she said. “They are at the end of any treatment they could have possibly received.”

Lewis stressed the importance of registering because donors and patients have to be matched up specifically based on their body weights as well as their HLA’s (human leukocyte antigen, a DNA relative).

“We would never take more from you than you can afford to give,” Lewis said. “Also, in four to six weeks your body reproduces those cells back to its original levels.”

She said the national database has 10 million people, but with a specific match, there is a wait.

“That’s why we have these drives—to put as many people on the registry as we can of every different diversity and race that there is possible,” Lewis said. “Sickle-cell disease can be cured in children usually under the age of 12 with bone marrow transplants. Not treating it, but curing it completely.”

Lewis also said the foremost reasons these drives are important are because of education and awareness. She said many people are misinformed about the procedures and bringing awareness can help build the registry.

Madeleine O’Kelly, a Memphis junior who helped out with the blood drive, said she has donated with Blood Assurance many times.

“You save three lives every time you donate a pint of blood so I think that’s a big factor for me,” O’Kelly said. “It’s an easy way to give back to the community, and it’s off no extra expense to me.”

O’Kelly said she regularly donates every 52 days. She said she has never donated bone marrow but is currently on the registry.

“I think it’s the best thing to do because it’s the easiest thing to do to help save a life,” she said.

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