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Blood supply & demand: High school students answer urgent call for donations

Osseo Senior High students learn the mechanics of donations and why they're so important.

OSSEO, Minn. — Minnesota high schoolers are answering the call to help replenish the dwindling blood supply. 

Memorial Blood Centers currently estimates less than a five- to seven-day hospital supply. Hospitals need enough blood to last two weeks at any given time to be considered stable, so the students at Osseo Senior High took matters into their own hands.

Last Friday, Osseo's gym was filled with new and returning blood donors for the third of this school year's scheduled blood drives with Memorial Blood Centers. 

"Well, I was thinking about it and was like, maybe 10 minutes out of my day might help someone for the rest of their life," explained Vayo Kamara, one of Osseo's students. "It makes you want to do more." 

Memorial Blood Centers credits high schools like Osseo for 25% of their annual collections. 

"We want to come here and make it a really fun event because we really hope to get life-long donors," said Alicia Northenscold, an account manager with Memorial Blood Centers. 

And time is of the essence to make an impression on these students. 

"As the population ages out, who have been donating for years and gallons, we rely on the 16-year-olds to take that place for the rest of their life," said Northenscold. 

The effort is working, at least at Osseo High. 

"I never really thought of giving blood until this came to Osseo, and since I came here, I was like, I might as well give it a try," said Trinity Garcia, a student at Osseo High. 

Besides making a difference, there are educational benefits to participating in a school blood drive. 

"I've had people come by and ask if they can go talk to [Memorial Blood Centers workers] and ask if they can watch," said Samantha Longenecker, President of the National Honor Society at Osseo High School. "People have a good time with it. Most of the people that I've talked to really enjoy it. We have the OEC program (Opportunities in Emergency Care) here at the school."

The OEC program is where students learn about first aid, CPR, and work towards emergency medical responder certification. 

By participating in these blood drives, students learn the mechanics of donations and why they're so important. "It's kind of a ripple effect. Someone donates, they tell their friends, and all of the friends want to come and sign up, and maybe they can all donate together," said Longenecker. 

These are encouraging words as Minnesota contends with a blood emergency. "Be 'the good.' If there's good in the world, be 'the good,' and when you're coming here donating blood, you're 'the good,'" encouraged Northenscold.

Memorial Blood Centers is looking for as many first-time donors as possible. In addition, there's an urgent need for O and RH-negative and platelet donors. You can register online or make an appointment at your local donation center. 

If you're interested in donating blood, there are some general requirements:

  • In good health
  • At least 17 years old (or 16 with parental consent)
  • At least 110 pounds (For teen girls, there are additional height and weight requirements)
  • Free of antibiotics for at least 24 hours
  • Free of any cold or flu symptoms for at least 72 hours

Restrictions to donating blood include:

  • If you've experienced symptoms of COVID-19 or had a positive diagnostic test in the last 14 days, or are on self-quarantine restrictions
  • Have medical-related restrictions that include: uncontrolled hypertension; recent history of cancer, leukemia, or lymphoma; as well as risk of exposure to hepatitis, HIV, or AIDS; etc.
  • Certain international travel may temporarily or permanently defer you from donating if you have traveled or lived in a malaria-endemic area

Health Fair 11 is hosting its Spring Blood Drive with Memorial Blood Centers Thursday from 1-7 p.m. at the Minneapolis Marriot West Hotel. 

Donors will be treated to Eileen’s Colossal Cookies and vintage Memorial Blood Centers t-shirts. All presenting donors will also have a chance to win a pair of tickets to see Hamilton on April 9.

To reserve a donation time, click here. Walk-in donors will be accepted as space allows.

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