On Wednesday, Sept. 8, Vassar hosted an on-campus emergency blood drive in response to a severe blood shortage in Dutchess County. New York Blood Center and the Health & Wellness Fair organized the event.
According to Account Manager and Donor Recruitment Head at New York Blood Center Lisa Starzyk, blood supplies have depleted due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Donors have been hesitant to donate due to COVID-19. Also, this past year saw most of our high schools and colleges closed and we were unable to run blood drives at their respective places,” said Starzyk. Director of Health Services at Vassar Margot Schinella also pointed out that the College experienced a similar challenge: “Last year, we were not able to host a blood drive on campus due to COVID-19 restrictions and limitations on large gatherings.”
Even though vaccinations are on the rise, a blood shortage has remained, according to Starzyk. The need for blood has increased dramatically as hospitals have started to reschedule postponed surgeries.
More than 140 people came to the blood drive. Due to this unexpectedly high participation rate, New York Blood Center had to add more appointment slots to the schedule.
The blood drive collected 118 pints, far exceeding the goal of 75. “One pint of blood can save three lives, so this translates to 354 lives saved in just six hours,” explained Starzyk. The number also surpassed Vassar’s record of 97 pints, the highest amount collected in the five years before COVID-19.
“Any and all blood donations are always greatly appreciated, especially when there is an emergency shortage. I worked for many years in various emergency rooms in this area and saw first-hand how life-saving just one pint of blood can be,” said Schinella. “What better way to integrate the social dimension of wellness in your life than with a blood drive, where you have the ability to positively contribute to the health and wellbeing of the community.”
Jake Silva ’24, who has donated blood four times, voiced that everybody eligible to donate should try. “I think a lot of people don’t know how much of a blood shortage there is in the United States and the world, particularly in the past 18 months because obviously it is hard to arrange and have a blood drive during the pandemic.” He continued, “There are a lot of people who likely need transfusions, so I feel good about giving help to them.”
Madeline Dean ’22 was also not a first time donor. She participated in two different blood drives during her freshman year. “I saw on the email they sent out that there is a blood shortage. I do remember hearing about that in the early time of the pandemic that people didn’t want to give blood. So I was aware of that, but I didn’t realize it was still going on,” said Dean. “I think it is a good way to help people, and it is nice to give back to the community. Especially, college students are generally young and healthy to donate blood,” she added.
New York Blood Center expressed gratitude to the Vassar community for its support in the life-saving mission. “[The] event ran smoothly…and we look forward to future blood drives with the Vassar community,” said Starzyk.
The next Vassar blood drive will be hosted in December and there will be more throughout the academic year.