A hospital never sleeps and there are no holidays from the vigilance of patient care, not even at Christmas time. The same is true for the mission of maintaining a safe blood supply. In many ways it was a routine, every-other-month blood drive Friday, Dec. 20 at Reid Hospital, yet the magic of the season had a way of shining through.
Tired nursing staff members finished their overnight shifts in the ER and ICU, then cheerfully reported to Lingle Hall to donate. The hospital laid out a bountiful table of holiday refreshments in the Donor Café. Richmond Community Blood Center (CBC) account representative Melinda Frech was dressed as Mrs. Claus as she set out Warm Glow Candles and Teddy Bears for door prizes. Plus, it’s not every day that one of the first to donate is Reid Hospital CEO Craig Kinyon.
“With enough advance notice, I can squeeze out enough time to donate,” Kinyon said. “I’ve been at Reid 18 years, and the blood drive has been something that has built up since before I started here. Being in healthcare, we undeniably know the value of it and the need for blood. It’s a product that depends on human donors and it’s an opportunity to give back. I guess you can say it’s the gift that money can’t buy.”
For Kinyon it was also an opportunity to share greetings across the donor beds to his staff members, then join them in the Donor Café for a snack. One of the early donors was Jennifer Steffano, a night shift nurse in the ICU step-down unit who made her 4th lifetime donation Friday. It’s a busy time of year, but Jennifer says sleep can wait. “I still have a lot of shopping to do,” she said. “I have two ‘Rugrats’ at home, – an 11-year-old and a 5-year-old!”
Critical care nurse Justin Daniels also donated after finishing the night shift, his 8th lifetime blood donation. “This is a gallon today!” he said proudly. “For one thing, it’s convenient. But I’m also a big COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) advocate. My dad has COPD, and I like to do anything I can to help. I just ran a marathon in Las Vegas for the COPD Foundation. We ran down the Vegas Strip at night – it was amazing.”
Brenda Bowman, who works in oncology, made her 18th lifetime donation Friday. “This is where I always give,” she said. “You just do it!”
Blood drive coordinator Chuck McGill was there for the start of the blood drive, darted back to his work at the hospital lab, then returned with his two-year-old grandson Aiden. He was optimistic about support for the blood drive, despite the seasonal challenges. “It varies,” he said. “It can be deferrals from whatever illness is sweeping through, and sometimes staff is too busy to come down and donate.”
Despite the challenges that come with the beginning of winter the blood drive was a success. A total of 94 registered to donate, including nine first-time donors and 70 donations for 104% of the collection goal.
The Reid Hospital blood drives are open to staff and the community. One of the visitors who donated Friday was Michael Lowden, a supervisor from neighboring Richmond State Psychiatric Hospital and coordinator of the CBC blood drives at Richmond State. He was the first to make an automated double red blood cell donation, which represented his milestone 100th lifetime blood donation.
For Lowden, the milestone was like an early Christmas present. “If I had waited to donate at Richmond State on Jan. 16 I wouldn’t have been eligible to donate again until May,” he said. “By doing double reds here, I can reach my 100th and I wanted to get it.”
Two milestone donors arrived at the Donor Café, each with very personal outlooks on giving blood, especially at this time of year. Aaron Evans is an ER nurse who made his milestone 5th lifetime donation after finishing the night shift. Like many hospital workers, he will be working Christmas Eve, but will he home in time to spend Christmas morning with his five-year-old daughter. “I’ve donated at every blood drive so far that we’ve had at Reid since I’ve been here,” he said.
Forest Neff made his milestone 60th lifetime blood donation Friday. Forest is a long-time CBC donor and supporter who continues to be inspired by his daughter Kris Burch, a leukemia survivor. “She’s the one that got me started, and I’ve been giving ever since,” he said. “It’s been eight years and she’s doing great.”
Kris was 34 when diagnosed. “We were lucky,” Forest said. “Three others in the same group she was in didn’t make it and they had the same thing. We just feel that the Lord blessed us.”
Kris has shared her survivor story with CBC, and she and her father are strong advocates for blood donations. Kris is now married and healthy. “After going through all this, she started working for hospice in Cincinnati,” said Forest. “She oversees rest homes were patients are terminal. It changed her life. It gave her life and it changed it too.”
Forest shared a final thought before leaving the Donor Café and venturing out into the final weekend before Christmas. “I’m just healthy enough that I can do this for other people,” he said. “Too bad we’ll never know the different stories about people that everyone in this room will help.”