Blood drive hits a vein with students

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
The Wildcat mascot checked on Jasper High School senior Brooke Lueken as she donated blood this morning at the high school. The drive was the first of three that will be held at the high school this year. Blood drives held at high schools account for 21 percent of the blood donated to the Indiana Blood Center.

Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — Staci Hanselman gave a thumbs-up sign to the Jasper Wildcat mascot this morning as 500 milliliters of blood drained out of Hanselman’s arm.

The Jasper High School parent makes a point of donating whenever she can, and today’s big blood drive in the school’s community room offered her yet another chance to help sick patients throughout the state.

School nurse Jamie Hutton organizes two blood drives a year for students 16 and older but this year, she added a third drive for the beginning of the school year. She scheduled the donation for right before the Jasper and Southridge football game to stir up school pride and give away T-shirts reading “Jasper Wildcats Bleed Black and Gold” to everyone who strapped into a chair to be stuck with a long needle.

In future years, Hutton hopes to arrange a competition between the two schools to see who can donate the most.

The drive is to benefit the Indiana Blood Center, which informed Hutton earlier this month of a shortage. During the summer months and holiday weekends, blood supplies usually run low because people are too busy to give. Blood center communications specialist Lucy Wehking said the organization gets about 21 percent of its annual supply from high-schoolers.

“Indiana Blood Center supplies blood to more than 60 hospitals throughout the state. (This morning), we were unable to fill 23 O-negative units and 11 B-negative units,” Wehking said. “In the summer, with people on vacations and schools out of session, supplies do look a little lower. Labor Day weekend always tends to be a harder weekend for us.”

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Individuals who donated blood at today’s drive at Jasper High School received T-shirts that read “Jasper Wildcats Bleed Black and Gold.” Students are encouraged to wear them to tonight’s football game between Jasper and Southridge at Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium in Jasper.

“It’s very, very, very important,” Hutton said of the drive. “When a major disaster happens like the tornadoes, Sandy Hook (elementary school shooting) or 9/11, everybody rushes to give. But then, we need blood year-round, not just when there’s a major disaster. One unit of blood saves three people.”

Hutton hoped to accumulate 100 units of blood during the daylong clinic.

Hanselman knows firsthand how important blood can be. Her daughter, Abby Beckman, died of cancer in 2005 after having several transfusions.

“I actually think the first time I gave blood was when my daughter got sick,” she said as she munched on an Oreo cookie after her donation. “You don’t realize how important it is until you actually need to use it. It’s really neat to see all the kids out here.”

As the morning wore on, dozens of students filed into the room to register and have their fingers pricked by phlebotomists to test their iron levels and blood pressure. For junior Bailee Seifert, it was the first time she’d ever donated.

The blood center drains only 470 milliliters from the arms of younger high-schoolers, and each donor gets a drink and a snack to recuperate afterward.

“I’ve always wanted to (donate). I just never signed up,” Seifert said as she squeezed a blue stress ball to help open her vein. The blood bag lying beside her was nearly half full. Seifert said she was nervous before sitting down and having the needle inserted in her arm, but now she knows she will continue to give in the future.

“It’s not that gross. I feel the needle, but that’s about it,” she said.

Many local schools host blood drives. Forest Park High School hosts two each school year. The next is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 27. School nurse Marian Bromm said age requirements and a ban on athletes donating during their sport seasons limit the number of students who can participate, but typically about 30 give each session.

At Southridge High School, Principal Kelly Murphy said a blood drive is held each year in the spring. The last happened in March, and the events are always popular.

“Each year, we fill up all available spots,” Murphy said. “Our students and staff really participate.”

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