Blood Committee Tours Red Cross Center

By Riley Chetwood

As a first semester member of AGS, I initially joined the Blood Committee for no reason other than it had plenty of opportunities to earn community service hours needed for the transcript notation and the honor society awards. During my first shift, I remember thinking, “What have I got myself into?” but I quickly came to realize that the Blood Committee was anything but boring and I had stumbled into a group of peers full of integrity and excitement.

For the first time since entering Pasadena City College, I was happy to be on campus. I got to know and become friends with members I worked with during shifts. I became more involved with school activities, and I had the satisfaction of knowing I was helping to replenish Southern Californian’s diminishing blood supply.

When spring break rolled around, and I was given the opportunity to visit the Red Cross Donor Center in Pomona, I was immediately interested.  I couldn’t help but wonder what was actually happening to the blood I had spent so many hours convincing people to donate. While I admit I was rather hesitant to give up even a minute of my precious spring break to anything related to school, I am glad I did. I experienced an intriguing and eye-opening tour of the Red Cross’ impressive facilities; I got to to enjoy the company of my fellow AGS members, and was treated to some delicious food.

The morning started with about sixteen of us carpooling down to Pomona in three or four cars. When we arrived, we were greeted by Nicole, our Red Cross representative, and shown an informational film that followed one person’s blood donation from start to finish. I learned how a single blood donation could save up to three lives. Once the pint of blood is taken from the donor and sent to a Red Cross facility, it’s separated into three parts through centrifugal force: red blood cells, plasma, and platelets. Each serves a vital role in our body and can be used to treat a variety of different emergencies. However, they all have, for lack of a better term, “expiration dates.” The platelets, for example, can only be stored up to five days. I found this particularly fascinating because this meant that within five days, a blood donor was helping to save someone’s life. Suddenly, saying “would you like to donate blood today and save a life?” during my shift didn’t seem so cliché anymore.

After the film, we were introduced to another Red Cross employee, and we began our tour.  We got to see how they separated the blood and got to catch a glimpse of their research laboratories.  Surprisingly, I learned that most of the resources at Red Cross go to the logistics of gathering, storing, and getting the blood where it needs to go. They showed us how they prepare and gather all the supplies for blood drives like the ones at PCC. Then we were brought into the freezer where they store southern California’s blood supply.  It wasn’t terribly low, but it was concerning. I remember walking out thinking if there was a natural disaster or state emergency, we would be in trouble. Finally, we were shown the loading bay where a fleet of delivery trucks could pick up and send the blood on its way to local hospitals.

After a short lunch and some chitchat, the tour was complete. We all headed to the front of the building to take the obligatory jumping freeze frame photo and we headed home. The trip was a great experience for me. It gave me an idea of why I was doing what I was doing. There are so many people whose lives are dependent on blood donations, yet a small prick of a needle keeps people from donating. I think if people understood what was done with the blood and saw what their donation could do, a lot more people would donate without even a second thought. I would recommend to anyone given the opportunity to visit the Donor Center to take it.