Students donate blood at semi-annual blood drive


Sweta Kunver

Junior Precious Carper gets her blood drawn during her lunch block.

Virginia Blood Services holds almost 2,700 blood drives a year. Two of the 2,700 blood drives take place at Harrisonburg High School, once in the fall and once in the spring. On Apr. 23, students ages 16 or older had the opportunity to donate their blood to a person in need for the second time this school year. For senior Carlyle Whitelow, this was his third time donating blood.

“I know that the blood is going to a good cause, so I always try to donate whenever I can,” Whitelow said.

Whitelow’s donation alone will save up to three adult lives or eight infant lives that are in need of blood, according to Mary Knapp, account manager for Virginia Blood Services.

“There is no substitute for blood,” Knapp said. “The only way we can save lives is by donors who generously give their time and of themselves.”

Of the 2,700 blood drives Virginia Blood Services hosts, only a fraction of them happen at high schools. Blood drives happen whenever, wherever someone is willing to give.

“We do drives at churches. We do drives at community centers. We do drives in gyms in colleges. We do drives in buses in front of Walmarts and Targets,” Knapp said. “Wherever someone is willing to take the lead to help us save lives, we will work with them to put [either] a bloodmobile there or do it inside.”

Though donating blood is an uplifting experience for many, the first time donating blood can be a nerve wracking experience, according to Whitelow.

“The first time [I donated blood], I was crying like a little baby, to be honest. But the second and third time, [I had] no nerves,” Whitelow said.

Knapp has noticed that anxiety in first time donors is a common theme when giving blood. She has developed a technique for calming down nervous blood donors before their blood is drawn.

“I like to tell them to go to their happy place. Usually first time donors just don’t know what to expect, all they know is that there’s a needle involved,” Knapp said. “We tell folks to take a deep breath, go to their happy place and think about all of the lives they’re going to save. [We tell them to] understand that we’ve great folks who are used to working with nervous first time donors that are going to take great care of you.”

While getting over nerves can be difficult for first time donors, Whitelow believes that the feeling after donating makes it worth it.

“The feeling after you are done giving blood is really amazing. Everyone should do it,” Whitelow said.

The blood drive will not return to HHS until next school year, but one can schedule an appointment at the donor center, located on Neff Avenue, which is open six days a week. Every donation made under Harrisonburg High School’s code, 3994, will count towards scholarship money at the end of the year.

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