PILOT MOUNTAIN — Westfield Elementary fifth-grade students not only learned how important blood is, they learned an upcoming blood drive hosted by the school can be a matter of life or death.
American Red Cross representative Ginny Anderson opened her presentation Thursday to the students with a segment of the television show, Extreme Home Makeover.
The TV show segment shown to the Westfield students was of 14-year-old Arizona native Lizzie Bell, who is one of 750 persons nationwide who have the disease Diamond Blackfan Anemia. This disease makes Bell unable to produce red blood cells and has left her dependent on blood transfusions to live.
Bell’s mother, Kathy, said doctors noticed her daughter had the disease at her six-week baby checkup. She described how physicians had to insert a tube extending up the infant’s leg up to her heart so she could receive blood to keep her alive.
“If I don’t have blood, I die,” said Lizzie Bell to the students. “The first five years of my life were in and out of the hospital.” She said she noticed how empty the refrigerators storing blood were on one visit for a transfusion. In response to this the teen and her family established the John P. Bell Family Foundation in honor of her grandfather. The foundation recruits blood donors and bone marrow registration.
Bell explained donating blood is donating life for someone else. She commented those who live in hospitals can draw comfort and feel better sharing with someone else who is going through the same thing. The extreme makeover episode ended with a new, safer home being built for Bell’s family and a nationwide donor drive which collected 11,000 pints of blood in her honor. She has also been honored by the Red Cross for her efforts.
Anderson told the students about 4.5 million Americans receive transfusions each year. She said about five percent of those eligible to donate in the United States do so.
“Lizzie’s life is so different than lot of people we know,” said Anderson. “She must live her life planned around her transfusions. Lizzie’s need will never end as long as she lives.” Anderson told the students one pint of donated blood can save three lives. She said adults typically have ten or more pints in their bodies compared to newborns, who have a cup of blood in their bodies.
She explained blood contains platelets, plasma and red blood cells. Patients like Lizzie Bell benefit from red blood cells, which carry oxygen to cells in the body. Anderson said platelets, which act as clotting agents in the blood, are often used in combination with chemotherapy and radiation treatments for cancer patients. Plasma, the straw colored liquid part of blood is used in a variety of treatments including burn victims.
Anderson told the students their 22 pint goal for the blood drive, applying the one pint helps three patients formula, would help 66 persons. She told them persons must be at least 17 years of age in North Carolina to donate blood. Persons who are 16 years old my donate if they have parental permission. She next described the procedure for blood donation.
She said donors must first register. They will next answer a series of questions about their health and travels. A nurse will then check their heart rate, blood pressure, iron levels in their blood, height and weight. Anderson estimated it takes a little over eight minutes to give blood. She said donors are given cookies and snacks after donating to offset the loss of a pint of blood, get their blood sugar regulated and as a thank you for donation.
The discussion ended with the different blood types. Anderson told the class the rarest blood type is AB negative and that O positive is the most common. She told the students blood is blue when it is in the veins and turns red with it is exposed to air. The blood drive is set for Feb. 12. Anderson said a total of 21 persons have already signed up and recommended donors call the school at 351-2745 to register. The blood drive will be held between 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the school gym.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.