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NMSU, UTEP tackle blood shortage

Before competing on the field, NMSU and the University of Texas at El Paso teamed up in a friendly competition to donate blood at the annual I-10 Coalition Blood Drive.  The two universities collected 491 units of blood this year.

The blood drive was hosted by Vitalant, the nation’s largest nonprofit blood donation organization. Monique Hilverding, senior donor recruitment representative at Vitalant, says they have been doing the I-10 Coalition Blood Drive leading up to the rivalry football game between NMSU and UTEP since 2004. 

“I will say that the Aggies, in those years, have won more often, but of course, it is a coalition so we’re just doing the best that we can to generate as much blood as we can for the community,” Hilverding said.  

Vitalant staff members work the I-10 Coalition Blood Drive on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2022. (Photo by Elizabeth Kidd/Kokopelli)

Being the only blood provider in all of New Mexico, the organization is still struggling with the national blood shortage. At the beginning of this year, American Red Cross reported that since the start of the pandemic, there has been a 10% overall decline in blood donations.  

According to Hildverding, on most days they receive less than the desired five-day supply, and with certain blood types they have been down to a one-day supply.  

As senior donor recruitment representative, it is Hilverding’s job to set up blood drives in the community in order to retrieve enough blood to provide for the 19 hospitals they service.  

“We utilize about 125 units of blood every single day, and a lot of our blood does come from high schools and universities, so we’re very glad that things are starting to pick up again and it’s starting to look a little bit more like it did prior to the pandemic,” Hilverding said.  

For Aggie students, the blood drive was hosted at NMSU’s main campus outside of the Corbett Center Student Union from Sept. 6 to Sept. 9, 2022. Donors were able to receive a free T-shirt or pizza.   

Monique Hilverding, center, and Dante Ramos, right, assist a potential blood donor at the I-10 Coalition Blood Drive on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2022. (Photo by Elizabeth Kidd/Kokopelli)

Karyme Orozco, a counseling psychology student at NMSU, donated for her first time at the I-10 Coalition Blood Drive. Orozco says that she decided to donate because it is a good cause.  

“I thought it was going to hurt more, but it didn’t,” Orozco said. “I was like it’s a blood donation, you never know who is going to need it.”  

Another staff member at Vitalant, Dante Ramos, said that he loves working with blood drives because it helps save lives.  

“Most people have never donated before and then once they donate, it can become a great experience for them,” he said.  

Hilverding expressed her love for her job because she can enable many individuals to participate in this selfless service. She also commented on how donors put themselves in a position that can sometimes be uncomfortable, to help someone they have never met.  

“Knowing that the person on the other side is not in a good place if they are needing a blood transfusion, so you’re potentially saving their life and their entire family because they get to keep their loved one. I think that’s a very powerful thing to be able to be a part of,” Hilverding said.  

Vitalant hosts a blood drive every other month at NMSU’s main campus outside of the Corbett Center Student Union. To learn more or to book a donation appointment, visit the Vitalant website 

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