The signs posted in the halls are difficult to ignore, as is the frequency with which they appear. About five times every semester, campus blood drives are set up at Stony Brook. And although they are well publicized, the amount of people who actually show up to donate is far lower than the organizers of the drives would like.
“We could always use a better turnout at blood drives,” said Jessica Chao, the President of the Stony Brook University Blood Drive Committee, which organizes the events. “Usually there is a high yield at the first blood drive of the semester, but it tapers off after that since people can only donate every 56 days.”
Blood that is donated at Stony Brook blood drives is sent to Long Island Blood Services, which is a division of the New York Blood Center. The blood is then distributed to many hospitals around Long Island and the greater New York area, including Stony Brook University Medical Center. A typical donation calls for about one pint of blood, and Chao says that the average drive brings in about 100 to 150 pints. Some students, however, are reluctant to donate.
Stony Brook sophomore Jonathan Stein said that he avoids donating blood because of a story he heard about his cousin, who was having a blood test at his doctor’s office and fainted after too much blood was removed. Also, he said, “I really don’t like needles. I guess it’s just the needles puncturing my skin and sitting there drawing out blood.”
Dr. Dennis K. Galanakis is both an associate professor of Pathology and Medicine at Stony Brook and the director of the blood bank at the hospital, where the staff holds blood drives of their own in which the blood is for use only at their hospital. Galanakis spoke of the benefits of blood drives and how they help those who are less physically fortunate.
“You save lives,” he said of the donation process. “We’ve saved 11 different women in the last 10 months who had massive bleeding from childbirth. Many cancer patients would die if they didn’t have enough blood because their bodies do not produce enough for them.” The same goes for patients who lose blood during surgery, he said.
However, there are also well-documented side effects that come with the good deed of donating blood, and it is possible that this could be part of what is holding some Stony Brook students back. Some common negative physical effects that come with giving blood include dizziness, lightheadedness, joint stiffness, slight nausea and, rarely, fainting. The prospect of such repercussions can be quite off-putting to potential donors. But Galanakis insists that only a miniscule number of donators feel woozy after giving blood.
“99 percent of people have no problem,” he said. “The one percent who do are underweight and so on and so forth, but it’s very rare.”
The American Red Cross has several regulations that it says donors should follow in order to ensure that their donation process is pain-free. They instruct people not to donate unless they are healthy (meaning that they can perform everyday activities and are treating any chronic conditions), at least 17 years old and weigh at least 110 pounds. They say that people should drink plenty of fluids and eat iron-rich foods prior to donating.
“I would never pressure someone to donate blood because I want them to be relaxed during the process,” Chao said. “I would, however, listen to their concerns, try to dispel any misconceptions they have and gently remind them that they could help save three lives by donating.”
Saving lives is the main beneficial philosophy that both Chao and Galanakis preach quite often. Galanakis calls it a “community service” and Chao describes donation as “a great way to contribute to society because a single action is saving multiple lives.” But this principle alone does not appear to have everyone committed. Chao and the Blood Drive Committee strive to lift their turnout in the future, and will continue to organize donations at Stony Brook.
Stein said that he will continue to avoid the blood drives, but that he understands why the committee wants to keep organizing them. “If they get new people every time, then it’s worth it,” he said.