Continuing a 25-year tradition, Thomson High School students participated in a blood drive at the school last Friday. Healthcare science teacher Robin Dudley said the drive serves a dual purpose - teaching students the operatives of a blood drive, as well as the importance of giving back to the community.
"We want it to be a positive experience and for the students to become lifelong donors," she said.
Shepeard Community Blood Center sponsored the drive in cooperation with Mrs. Dudley's healthcare science students. The students took part in every non-invasive procedure of the event including registration, organization and monitoring donors, Mrs. Dudley said. Students in the government economics classes were the donors, along with staff members of the high school. All students had to have a permission form signed by their parent, and most of them were first-time donors.
"I was happy to do it," said senior Chris Rabun. "And I'm real happy because it wasn't too painful."
Shepeard representative Linda Walker said 93 students presented for the drive and the center collected 74 good units of blood, plus six units from the Alyx machine. The Alyx machine is an automated instrument used to remove the red blood cells and return the platelets and plasma to the donor.
"Those donations count as two each, because they help two patients," Ms. Walker said.
Of the three components of blood used in transfusions - red blood cells, platelets and plasma - red blood cells are typically in greatest demand, according to the community blood council website. Patients most likely to require transfusions of red blood cells include surgery patients, severe accident victims and patients with certain types of cancers. Minimum height and weight requirements are slightly higher for donors for the Alyx system, and collection takes about 10 to 20 minutes longer.
"It's definitely taking longer, but I don't feel any different," said senior Jonathon Wolfert as he was hooked up to the Alyx machine.
The Thomson High blood drive began years ago as a way to give back to the community, according to Mrs. Dudley. In 1986, the governor of Georgia discontinued such events because they pulled students out of the classroom. Mrs. Dudley said Dr. Susan Land, who was a THS student at that time, developed a plan for students to give blood and teachers to use the process as an educational experience. She developed the plan as part of an application for a scholarship with the Georgia Academy of Family Physicians.
"And her plan and project ended up being a role model across the state of Georgia," Mrs. Dudley said.
The Shepeard Community Blood Center is a non-profit organization based in Augusta that provides blood to 14 hospitals in 11 surrounding counties, including the McDuffie Regional Medical Center and the Joseph Still Burn Center in Augusta.