Students rush over to Clark’s blood drive

Saving lives with simple donations

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Karla Solorzano

Seniors Sridevi Kanduri, Natasha Vartanian and Nicolas Yedgarian wait to get their blood extracted.

Alec Badalian, Magazine Editor

“We get to save lives!” cheered senior Russell Caletena as he helped students check into the auditeria on Dec. 1. Around them were black leather beds with students atop them, gazing upward at the dim fluorescent lights. Attached to their arms were slender tubes that led to little bags, and within those vessels traveled their blood.

Since its opening in 1998, Clark Magnet High School has held an annual blood drive almost once every year, during which time the American Red Cross visits the campus and draws the blood of donors who are 17 or above. The event is organized by our school’s ASB along with our Red Cross Club and coordinated by longtime AP Statistics, Programming, Tech Literacy and Geometry teacher Fred Blattner.

The process begins with Blattner calling representatives of the Red Cross and establishing a suitable date for the drive, and once that has been decided, members of ASB obtain the names of those willing to donate. “We signed people up by going from class to class,” explained senior Mayumi Lometillo, as she guided students to the waiting area. “We asked them simple things like whether or not they had donated before or are taking certain medication, and things like that, then took down their names so we knew who we’d have to send forms to. It was such a pain collecting all those forms, but it was worth it,” she said. “But in all honesty, none of this would have been possible without Mr. Blattner.”

As a student in his AP Statistics class, I can attest to just how passionate Blattner has been about the whole event. Every day leading up to the event he would encourage students to participate and kindly thank all of those who would be with a smile and cheesy yet hilarious joke or pun of sorts. Blattner is the blood drive coordinator, meaning he oversees the entire operation while ASB organized the times at which each student would go and whatnot.

“We’ve collaborated with Red Cross ever since Clark opened, and I’m so grateful that they have because they’re helping us help them with doing so many great things for those who are in real need of blood,” Blattner said as he handed students the sign-in sheet. “I mean, each student who donates one pint of blood can save up to three lives, which I think is just a fantastic opportunity for both our students and patients who need our help.”

Senior Gennine Lagman laughs as the needle exits her arm.
Karla Solorzano
Senior Gennine Lagman laughs as the needle exits her arm.

According to the Red Cross, a person in the U.S. needs blood every two seconds due to sickle cell disease, cancer and other forms of illness. Thanks to the efforts of this organization and the givingness of U.S. civilians, the Red Cross is able to receive around 15.7 million pints of blood year through their donations.

“This year is a really special year for the blood drive we do here because it’s the first where we’ll be doing two blood drives in one year,” he said. “I asked the main office and Mr. Dall and all those guys why we only did one blood drive a year, and couldn’t get an answer. Then I asked them why we can’t do two in one year, and also couldn’t get an answer. So this year, we’ll be holding two, with our next one happening on Feb. 26.”

I had been nervous to donate my blood due to my irrational fear of needles and getting pricked by them, but nevertheless I put my anxiety aside and went through with it. The process began as I was led by a nurse into a small booth where my heart rate was taken and my blood was checked for iron levels.

After that was all done, I took an online questionnaire which informed the Red Cross about any medical conditions that could compromise the extraction process. Once that was completed, the nurse came back, made sure everything was in order and then led me to the bed in from which I would donate the blood.

What followed was a scrubbing of iodine upon the area which the syringe would puncture to retrieve my blood. The inner joint of my left elbow was stained yellow, as the iodine lubricated my skin. As the chemical soaked into my pores, the nurse took the tube that would transport my blood and connected one end to the syringe and the other to the bag that would hold it all. After a couple of flicks to the syringe from the nurse’s index finger, the needle slowly slid under my skin and into my vein.

With my eyes glued to the wall away from the syringe, the sting of the needle struck my arm. After it subsided, I peered over and observed the long stream of blood shooting out of my vein, aghast at the idea of all that blood just leaving my body. It was truly a strange experience that left me in a state of disbelief as to how I actually managed to go through with it all. However, I was nothing but pleased about the fact that I did, for it felt thoroughly rewarding.

After the syringe was cleanly out within a few minutes, my arm was covered with the residual blood that had all dried up. The nurse scrubbed it all away and then tightly wrapped my arm with red gauze. Afterwards, I was directed over to table with cookies and juice as nurses urged all donors to replenish themselves. Students sat around me and enjoyed the refreshments as they spoke to each other about their experiences with the drive. There were two types of students donating that day: those who were brave and didn’t mind the whole deal and those who were incredibly nervous. Senior Geninne Lagman fell under that second category, as she laid down on her bed looking up at Lometillo, her close friend, with her hand tightly squeezing her hand.

“My hands are really clammy,” Lagman said as she took deep breaths. “Just the idea of a needle going into my body and stealing my blood is horrifying.” Despite her intense fear towards the whole situation, Lagman came out of the auditeria quite calm and relieved. “It really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” she said. “But I’m still really scared of needles.”

Lagman was one of the 74 students who volunteered to donate their blood that day. However, due to the failure to meet some physical requirements, some students were unable to give their blood. Nevertheless, Blattner said that he was still extremely grateful for their willingness to try and help such an important cause.

Donating my blood was a truly terrific experience, as it felt great knowing that my contribution will go on to help people in need and hopefully even save three lives. Once it was all over, I realized there was absolutely no reason for me to be anxious before the whole donation process and left the auditeria immensely satisfied. I implore eligible students to be gracious enough to donate for the first time or once again come next February.

“I would just like to thank all of these students who took interest in the drive,” said Blattner. “Although not everyone was able to give their blood, we still managed to get around 53 pints of blood from all of the students who were, and that’s pretty amazing, I think. And it wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for our great students.”