Light, calming music filled the Aloha Center Ballroom as blood donors patiently sat at one side of the room. Technicians and phlebotomists quietly attended to their tasks as they screened potential blood donors and administered to people laying on blue cots. Regarding the donation process before him, Thomas Johnson, a junior from Laie majoring in biochemistry, said, “If I have the ability to do it, I’ll donate blood. I feel like I have a responsibility to do it.”
Supervising the work was Colby Walls, a donor recruitment account manager from Kaneohe. She has had three years of experience overseeing blood drives. She said, “Hawaii does not have enough donors. Only 2 percent donate in Hawaii while in the continental U.S., about 8 percent of the population give blood. Hawaii needs at least 200 people to donate blood everyday to meet the needs of hospitals.”
According to Johnson, him donating blood helps meet Hawaii’s needs. He said, “We have a blood drive every eight weeks. People need eight weeks to wait in between donations, for this is a nationwide rule.
“The goal for today and tomorrow is to have at least 50 people come donate each day, usually the target is met. This is a great project to bring the community and [our] school together. We encourage people to come try donating.”
Giving insight on the donations, Walls said, “We have a goal of 50 donors per day. That’s a quarter of what’s needed per day.”
Smiling enthusiastically, Rachel Howden, a junior from Utah studying peacebuilding, shared, “The blood bank has had a partnership with BYUH for at least two years. Every donation is one pint of blood and can save about three lives. All blood donations stay in Hawaii. No blood can be shipped to the island due to differences in pressure and elevation.”
It isn’t uncommon for people to be afraid of donating blood, according to Walls. She said, “It could be the needles or the blood itself. It is a lot less scary if you go through with it. I was afraid at first, but after what happened to my brother, I overcame my fear and donate regularly.
“My brother was in college and he got really sick. We did not know why he was sick. One day, he went unconscious and fell on his head. We took him to the emergency room and he desperately needed blood. During his time there, he was given four pints of blood. The nurses were literally squeezing bags of blood into his body.
“In the end, he survived and is living a happy life with his wife and kids. My brother lives because four people were confident enough to face their fears and donate blood. The blood drives at BYUH are a sustaining part of Hawaii. We are grateful for the community for donating their blood for the greater good.”
Howden said she is involved in these projects by coordinating with the Service Center or participating. She participated by donating blood.
Another donor, Alyssa Allen, a junior from Colorado studying humanities, said, “It’s great for people to get involved. Donating blood saves lives. I love doing it for that reason.”
Regarding the new technology at the blood drive, Johnson said, “We have a machine called the Max Red. It filters blood on site.This process makes everything efficient and gets the blood to hospitals faster.
“It used to be that the blood needs to be packed and taken to other sites to be filtered. There used to be more screening that took place to know if blood was ok. Chemical analysis is taken to check if it is safe. We have two Max Red machines and we are excited to see them work.”
Howden said, “We have God-given technology to help people. This is a great opportunity to make a difference.”
On a lighter note, Johnson laughed and said, “The best thing is the snacks at the end.” He motioned to tables piled with refreshments like Sun Chips, juice, and water.