Without student help, area blood banks suffer

Without student help, area blood banks suffer

November 9th, 2011 by Mike O'Neal in Local Regional News

There is a high probability that anyone in this area who requires a blood transfusion is given young blood. Not young as in having been collected within the past few hours, but rather from having been donated by a teenager.

Carolyn Houston of Blood Assurance, center, accepts blood donations from senior Ariel King and sophomore Jacob Stonebraker during the recent blood drive at Ringgold High School.

Photo by Mike O'Neal

"About 14 percent of donations come from high school students," Trish Black, a donor recruiter for Blood Assurance, said as she collected information last week at Ringgold High School.

"All the schools in Georgia support what we do and that it's a 24/7, 365-days-a-year need," Black said. "If we can help students understand that this is a need that never stops and can offer them a good experience, then they may become lifelong donors."

More than 114 students preregistered to participate in the first blood drive since a tornado slammed into the school on April 27, a day before a scheduled blood drive at RHS.

Rather than cancel the drive entirely, Ringgold's students participated in the Heritage High School drive as they completed the school year.

After a summer of repairing and rebuilding, things are getting back to normal at Ringgold High - including having vans from Blood Assurance visit the campus.

"This is my 27th blood drive here at Ringgold," said Ringgold High health occupation teacher Robin Gardner, as she stood in front of two Bloodmobiles parked in front of the ROTC building. "We've saved a lot of lives in that time."

Saving lives by providing a safe and adequate supply of blood and blood components has been the mission of Blood Assurance since it was founded in 1972 as a nonprofit full-service regional blood center.

Blood Assurance today serves more than 50 health care facilities in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina with blood that is freely given by volunteer donors.

Among students giving the "gift of life" last week was senior Ryan Khottavong, who said this was his fourth time to donate.

Now 18 and already enlisted in the Marine Corps, Khottavong said he got parential permission so he could begin donating blood at 16.

"I was actually excited the first time," he said. "I figure I should help out as much as I can."

Everyone is given a T-shirt, partly as compensation and partly as a way to promote Blood Assurance, after donating.

"I want to help anybody that needs it," Khottavong said. "The T-shirt is just another perk."