In the winter of 2020, Pepperdine student Matthew McDougal’s brother, Adam, experienced complications due to Recombinant 8 Syndrome and had to get a blood transfusion for spinal surgery. His brother had a successful surgery, but after experiencing that, he knew he wanted to help others in similar situations. That’s when he began being involved with his university by organizing a series of blood drives conveniently for students on campus.
“I’m very motivated to be able to provide this opportunity for students to be able to get back to the broad ecosystem, because it’s really important to give people like my brother a chance and to be able to get those services for people to donate here,” McDougal said. “So it’s really important for me to be able to get back to my community.”
From March 22-24, the American Red Cross coordinated with Pepperdine and different clubs and organizations to be able to provide volunteers for the drive.
Organized in the middle of Pepperdine campus, at the Howard A. White Center, most donations took less than 15 minutes.
“Pepperdine students are looking for ways to serve the community,” Director of Community Engagement and Service in The Hub for Spiritual Life Christin Shatzer Román said on behalf of Pepperdine. “The American Red Cross provides a tangible, direct way to serve and make an impact, and students and university employees stepped up to donate.”
McDougal understands the financial struggle students face throughout their educational career. With a blood drive, the student and the organization would benefit from the donation. He also organized the events later in the evening to prevent any difficulty in donating.
“It gives people here at Pepperdine an opportunity to be able to give back to the community,” McDougal said. “Some students don’t have a lot of money. I know as a student here, I don’t have money to give to people, but this is my way to give back to the community.”
Account Manager for the American Red Cross Nina Minton said during COVID-19, there was an increase in donations; however, only a small percentage of the world donates.
“Only 3 percent of the world gives in terms of blood, and that’s a very low amount,” Minton said. “So we really need people to come out and although we are not in crisis mode right now, it is very, very vulnerable.”
Minton said there was also a major concern for participants to show up to blood drives.
“Fear is a major concern for us because for a while we didn’t have people coming to our drives. They were so concerned, same for those people who had the vaccine,” Minton said. “That’s the hardest thing for us to get people back.”
The American Red Cross attended to students for three separate days. Minton said it’s unusual to have three separate blood drives on a campus like Pepperdine.
“It’s just not the norm, so we really need people to understand that we have these drives on campus and it actually ends up being great for us for a number of reasons,” Minton said. “One is, if we don’t see these students now or in high school, we will not see them for over 20 years. That same donor doesn’t understand the import of it and doesn’t hear about drives, so this is our way to actually let those younger people know now.”
Minton said they were also doing COVID-19 antibody testing which is an antibody test screens for antibodies in the blood and whether the immune system has responded to past infection or vaccination.
“For every unit that we get, that someone donates here, that ripples throughout our organization,” Minton said. “So it’s like throwing a pebble into a lake and all these ripples happen. They’re helping our disaster services.”
As for any coronavirus concerns, Minton said they have participants answer a rapid pass to ensure that the blood and platelet donation process is as safe as possible for donors and patients in need.
“We do something called a rapid pass. It’s sort of our health history,” Minton said. “They can answer these questions very quickly on their phone; it takes a few minutes and then when they come in, it basically makes the health history go much faster.”
The questions include what vaccine they received and when. Minton said the donor’s vaccination history doesn’t matter, but they’d like to know if they had a reaction.
“If they had a COVID exposure, we’d like them to wait,” Minton said.
According to the website, The Red Cross, which supplies 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply, has had to limit blood product distributions to hospitals. Some hospitals may not receive 1 in 4 blood products they need.
“Blood is one of those things you don’t think about unless you really need it,” Minton said.
As the student volunteers greeted each donor at the door, the nurses made the experience more comfortable and less intimidating and Minton said that’s important when someone is donating blood, especially for the first time.
“These nurses are very well trained and it’s very important, because if you have someone who doesn’t work well with other patients and be kind, that patient is gonna feel like they don’t want to come back, so we have to have excellent phlebotomists,” Minton said. “We have to have the best that we can.”
Red Cross Phlebotomist Nurse Kristen Fogle said there was a pause of donors during the pandemic, but that has increased with the help of advertising and promoting the urgency of donating.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of people were scared to come out of their homes. They wanted to quarantine, so it was hard for us to get people to want to come out, but slowly people have been coming back,” Fogle said. “We did hit our goal during the holiday season, so people are starting to really come back. We’ve seen an uptake, so thankfully, thank you to the donors and for everybody that’s been helping us out to save lives.”
Minton said the American Red Cross will be hosting a blood drive on Jun. 15 at City Hall. The next blood drive on the Pepperdine campus is scheduled for Oct. 4. To see blood drives near you, visit Redcrossblood.org.