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Pilot Program organizes Red Cross blood drive

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Red Cross nurse Kathy Arthur fills out paper work for a student donor.

by Gloria Li

On forest green beds with a heart-shaped foam stress-relieving ball in hand, some students at this school donated blood Tuesday on the stage in the auditorium.
The blood drive was a success in that “all the spots were filled for the eight hour period, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and we even had a wait list going for additional students who wanted to participate,” according to Pilot Program math teacher Katie Cacace, one of the coordinators of the event.
With three stations available for students to donate blood at a time, 48 individuals presented to give blood, Cacace said.
Thirty-seven pints of blood were collected and each pint saves three lives meaning a total of 111 lives were saved by the students and faculty of the school, according to Cacace.

According to nurse Rozanne Milner, the Pilot Program and the Massachusetts Region division of the American Red Cross collaborated to host the blood drive.

“It’s wonderful that this school is providing people with opportunities to donate and to save lives,” she said.

The Pilot Program is a small, self-contained therapeutic program, which includes a group of 35 students who are in all of the same academic and elective classes.  It is one of this school’s five special education programs, and it was responsible for running the drive.

Cacace said that the drive provided Pilot students with an opportunity to volunteer.

Math teacher Elizabeth Reynolds used to run the drive, but this is the second year, the pilot program has been doing so instead, Cacance said.

“Eight student volunteers took their own time to help run the drive, and additional students set up sign-up tables during all three lunches” she said.

In past years, the donation program was open to parents as well as students and teachers, but this year, “we only let students and faculty participate because they filled up all the sign-up spots,” Cacace said.

Students typically sign up to donate during their free blocks, but in the event that their schedule conflicted with the open donation time slots, students had to ask their teachers for permission first.

Blood donation is governed by regulations which prevents some students from participating, especially students who may not be able to meet the weight requirements.

According to Red Cross nurse Kathy Arthur, “girls tend to be tiny until they are seniors, which makes it so that they are unable to fulfill the 110 pound weight requirement necessary to be permitted to donate blood.”

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Red Cross nurses placed the donated blood into boxes for transportation.

Arthur said, “We perform hemoglobin checks for iron levels of at least 12.5, which tends to be much easier for males to achieve than for females.”

Students 16 or older were welcome to donate a pint of their blood with parent permission, while those 17 or above were permitted to donate without parental consent.

Cacancer noted, “Many enthusiastically participated.”

Senior Miguel Rivera, who was able to fulfil the requirements and donate, said, “donating made me feel good about myself, and it was a great emotional boost.”

The doctors and nurses present were “well-trained and nice,” Rivera said.

Senior Raul Hernandez said, “One person’s blood could potentially save three people, so giving up my free time to donate blood was for a worthy cause.”

Rivera said he would recommend that everyone attempt to donate.

“When a patient diagnosed with HIV, for example, can’t meet the requirements, this information is kept confidential, and they are not denied openly and put on the spot,” he said.

Surprising to Hernandez was the fact that they required the donation of an entire pint of blood.

“I saw the small tubes and thought that was all we had to give, but then, once it began, they just kept taking blood out and filled a bag of an entire pint,” he said.

Rivera observed that the container of blood was “about the size of a coffee mug.”

Account manager Jamie Barnard of the Massachusetts Region division of the American Red Cross helped set up the blood donation event at this school.

Earlier this year, Barnard also  played a role in setting up a donation facility at the Newton Free Library as well as at South.

At South, the blood drive was located in the gymnasium while at this school, it was on the stage in the auditorium. Barnard said, “The one here was filled with more donors and was definitely much bigger.”

According to Barnard, “It’s great to have space that is nice and roomy, which is provided here in this new building.”

Barnard praised the students for being “enthusiastic, which makes blood donation not a hard activity to do and makes the experience much more fun.”

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