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Locals take action against nation’s blood shortage

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — In response to the national blood crisis, NMSU and local nonprofit organization Vitalant teamed up last Wednesday and Thursday for a blood drive to help face the worst blood shortage in over a decade due to repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to supply enough blood to 18 hospitals from southern New Mexico to El Paso, Vitalant needs to collect 165-180 units of blood daily. Vitalant representatives had a goal of collecting at least 78 units of blood from NMSU faculty and staff and ultimately collected 71 units.

Vitalant employee Viviana Vasquez gives a thumbs-up in the Vitalant blood drive bus while Ruth Matthews, 18, donates blood Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. (Photo by Hannah Hunter/Kokopelli)

Prior to the pandemic, only 3% of the nation donated blood and 30% of those donors came from high schools and universities. Since the pandemic, that number of individuals has decreased by 10% due to school shutdowns and lack of staff.

According to Monique Hilverding, senior donor recruitment representative at Vitalant, 58,000 fewer individuals donated blood in 2021 than 2020.

Hilverding believes that aside from the COVID-19 pandemic, the reason behind low donor percentage has to do with frequent change in regulation. “If you’ve been deferred as a donor in the past, check again because regulations change all the time regarding things such as medications, vaccinations, tattoos and travel,” Hilverding said.

On the off chance that one is ineligible to donate blood, there is still the option of volunteering at Vitalant as a recruiter or using social media as an outlet to ask others to donate in your place. There is also the opportunity to host your very own blood drive through Vitalant after adhering to a few basic requirements.

According to full-time Vitalant employee, Viviana Vasquez, the screening process is simple from a donor’s perspective. “We have donors answer a series of personal and health questions to determine their eligibility which can be completed ahead of time on our website. After that is done, we get them in and out,” Vasquez said.

American Red Cross figures show that there is a need for all blood types with an emphasis on O-positive and O-negative. There are numerous types of patients that need blood such as burn victims, premature babies, trauma victims and cancer patients, just to name a few.

Amer Al Radaideh, Ph.D student at NMSU, is a regular donor with a humble perspective on why students should participate in blood donation. “As students we should always think about giving back because it’s easy to forget how lucky we are to have the opportunity to go to school and be healthy,” Radaideh said.

If you did not attend the blood drive on campus and want to donate, Vitalant hosts six to seven blood drives a day around the area making it easy for potential donors to participate. There is also the option of donating at the Vitalant local office located at 1200 Commerce Dr. in Las Cruces. 

Former president Richard Nixon signed a proclamation in 1969 dedicating January to be National Blood Donor month. In that proclamation, Nixon touches on the impact of being a blood donor.

“No manifestation of this generosity of spirit is more expressive, and no gift more priceless in time of personal crisis, than the donation of one’s blood. The voluntary blood donor truly gives life itself,” Nixon said.

One Comment

  1. Outstanding article. I didn’t know there was such a reduction in donations among blood donors and that High School and University donations had gone down so drastically…

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