Elkin High School’s JROTC held its semi-annual blood drive Thursday in conjunction with the American Red Cross.
Cadet Lt. Col. Chance Hogan, cadet battalion commander for the JROTC, was in charge of the drive. Now in his last semester at Elkin High, Hogan has headed up the drive since his freshman year as his service learning project for high school graduation.
“I have done it every semester since my freshman year, and this year as I’m battalion commander it has really fallen to me, and I pretty much just oversee it,” Hogan said.
The drive was held in Elkin High School’s gymnasium and open to the public. Cadets were required to call and request donations from family, friends and the community at the beginning of the semester in addition to the walk-ins the school welcomed.
Prior to beginning the drive cadets had assurances from 85 individuals who promised to donate, according to Sgt. 1st Class William McGrew.
McGrew and Lt. Col. Kenneth Abrams are the supervisors of the Elkin High JROTC program. McGrew has participated in 15 years of blood drives, while Abrams has 20. Abrams said he was not sure of the exact number of years the drives have been held, but he estimated 40 years.
“We enjoy it. You get an opportunity to meet a lot of the kids’ parents. It’s all for a good cause,” said McGrew. “One thing I like about it is the students in the high school who are old enough get an opportunity to give blood for the first time.”
Darlene Bradley, known as “Dar” or “the Red Cross lady” to those who have donated in the past, was not only the supervisor of the Red Cross’ efforts at Elkin but also a parent. Her son Brandon Bradley is a junior at Elkin High and a cadet, giving her an important tie to the school and JROTC program. She said the drive has the potential to help someone even though people may not be able to donate money to those in need right now.
“The economy is bad, and everyone is having a hard time, and by pulling together with even just doing the blood drive this is helping save a life,” said Bradley.
Bradley said those who donated had to meet several criteria before they could give.
Men needed to weigh at least 130 pounds and stand at least five feet tall, while women needed to be 150 pounds and five feet five inches tall. She joked the requirements called for women to have “more junk in the trunk,” but explained the standards were lower for men because men have different body composition than women and generally have higher muscle density.
McGrew and Abrams added that students had to be at least 17 years old to donate, or 16 with written permission from their parent or guardian.
Upon arrival, the prospective donors had to sign a list saying they had read a sign listing health factors that could prevent them from giving, such as antibiotic usage, cold symptoms, and other preliminary questions. Following their signature donors sat in a waiting area and read over a manual of further information about donating blood.
Next, the donor met with a Red Cross staff member who gave each person a mini-physical, checking weight, blood pressure, and hemoglobin levels for example. Hemoglobin levels were required to be above 12.5 for whole blood donors and iron levels above 13.3 for red blood cell donors, said Bradley.
She said the levels were mandated by the Food and Drug Administration for the donation of blood.
After completing the previous steps, donors were given a questionnaire before donating.
While donors sat back and the donation bags filled, JROTC cadets stood beside each chair. Bradley said the cadets were there not only to thank those making the drive a success, but to also help donors stand and walk carefully over to the snack bar and make sure everyone was attended to following donation.
Lt. Colonel McGrew said the process took about an hour.
Bradley pointed out the two types of machines that were in use. One was a “whole” blood machine which is designed to remove red blood cells, platelets, and plasma. The second was the Automated Red Blood Cell machine. It is designed to remove only the red blood cells, allowing donors to keep their plasma and platelets. Bradley said donors were also given saline to help boost their fluid levels, so those who gave went away with more fluid than if they had given whole blood.
Restrictions prevent someone from giving whole blood within 56 days of their last donation, and 112 days of their last red blood cell donation.
Bradley said the staff could not use the red blood cell machine on A(+) and B(+) patients because the Red Cross needed plasma and platelets from these types in addition to red blood cells. AB(-) patients were not allowed to donate because of the rarity of the blood type.
Following the bags being filled with blood, staff member Mike Walker prepared the collections for transport. As the drive ended blood would be transferred back to Winston-Salem, then moved to Charlotte for examination at the Red Cross lab there. After arriving in Charlotte the blood would be inspected for diseases or infections that could taint the blood and prevent its being used.
One of the many donors the JROTC welcomed Thursday was Thomas Wampler, husband to Elkin High alumnus Courtney Wampler. Formerly Courtney Puckett, Mrs. Wampler brought the couple’s son Trae to meet everyone as Thomas donated.
Trae was born without arms in addition to having heart problems. He has to receive blood as part of his heart problems, and while in town from their home in Virginia Thomas decided to donate.
Trae was the center of attention as staffers and students flocked to welcome him. Bradley said that as he arrived and his story was told, students went to the intercom in the office and informed the school about their special guest.
Braldey said students responded and the number of donations increased immediately.
“[The blood drive] promotes a loving spirit in our town. I think it helps people to help one another. We can all do better by just being here for one another.”
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