By Ms. Elyssa Vondra (Jackson)January 31, 2019
Fort Jackson set a new donation record in its first community blood drive of 2019 on Jan. 25, after American Red Cross returned to Fort Jackson this summer following a three-year absence.
A total of 47 units of blood were contributed. The former record for a single event was 46.
The count exceeded the goal of 40 units and nearly reached the capacity of 50, coming at a crucial time.
"We are right now in a critical need for all blood types," said Ashley Douglas, Fort Jackson's American Red Cross account manager Friday. "People are waiting on this blood."
Donors often come out in droves following events like shootings and natural disasters, she said, but stressed that donations made today won't be received by patients "today, tomorrow, (or even) next week."
Processing time can be lengthy; the blood must be thoroughly evaluated with a process that includes a stint in quarantine.
That is why everyday donation is so important, she said.
The sparsity is one reason Staff Sgt. Meaghan Ilimaleota of Moncrief Health Clinic said she donated Jan. 25.
"I know we've been short on a lot of things," Ilimaleota said. "It's a small price to pay for people in emergencies."
She came with a member of the next generation of donors in tow.
Ilimaleota's son, Liam, 5, recently got his flu shot.
"I told him that he could see mommy get a needle in her arm, because he got a needle in his arm," Ilimaleota said. "I wanted to make it a learning experience."
The last time the training companies got their flu shots, roughly one-third of each admitted to being afraid of needles, Ilimaleota said.
"I want to be proactive with my son, because when you're 18 and you're scared of a needle and you're going into the military, you have a lot more things to be scared about," she quipped.
She said she learned the value of donating from her parents, who did so regularly.
Ilimaleota has seen the need firsthand.
Her husband is also active duty, and he needed a blood transfusion during his third tour in Iraq when a vehicle accident caused by an Improvised Explosive Device left him with serious burns.
"If anything ever happened to me, I would have wanted somebody to give blood, so I want to be that person and be proactive," Ilimaleota said.
Jonathan Abernathy, another donor Jan. 25, said he turned up as a "way of helping."
Abernathy is a boiler technician at Fort Jackson who served in the Navy. He said his time in active duty helped him realize how important donation is.
Fort Jackson community members who missed the drive Jan. 25 will have five more opportunities to contribute on-post this year.
The installation was recently put back on the regular schedule for community blood drives.
American Red Cross stopped hosting them at Fort Jackson after 2015 with an event that yielded just five units of blood.
In 2018, community blood drives returned with a bang, with two events that contributed a combined 70 units.
William Sexton, a Fort Jackson fire inspector and American Red Cross volunteer, helped bring them back.
"I just try to keep the message going," Sexton said.
He volunteers with community blood drives. Contributions from these events go to regional hospitals, whereas contributions made during drives hosted by the Armed Services Blood Program are sent to Soldiers deployed overseas.
The next community blood drive will be held at the fire department March 25.
The whole blood-giving process lasts roughly an hour, but the needle portion takes less than 10 minutes.
Sexton advices people who think they can't donate to "do the research … don't disqualify yourself." Eligibility requirements change from time to time.
The bloodmobile will be used to collect donations at the fire department event, and employees will make food for the donors, Sexton said, commenting that chili may be on the menu.
"It's not hard," Sexton added. "You can make a big difference."