UNC Charlotte students, community make lifesaving impact at seventh annual blood drive
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — University of North Carolina at Charlotte blood drive organizers are aiming for a new record this year: 1,000 pints of blood collected at the annual 49ers4Life blood drive on Tuesday, Jan. 26. Previous blood drives have come close but never surpassed the 1,000-pint finish line; last year’s drive yielded about 800 pints. This year, organizers are hoping that students, alumni and community members respond to the call for blood donors by rolling up a sleeve and donating.
“Winter is one of the toughest times for the Red Cross to collect enough blood to meet patient needs,” said Ryan Corcoran, donor recruitment director for the Red Cross. “When the UNC Charlotte community comes together for this drive, they can help boost the blood supply – and ultimately offer hope to patients in need of blood transfusions.” The American Red Cross has an urgent need for blood and platelet donations to prevent a shortage this winter. Busy holiday schedules in November and December contributed to about 1,700 fewer blood drives held across the country compared to the two previous months, which has resulted in about 50,000 fewer donations and reduced the blood supply.
Donors can help mitigate this shortfall at the blood drive on Tuesday, Jan. 26 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at UNC Charlotte’s Barnhart Student Activity Center, 9201 University City Blvd.
Those who come out to donate blood will receive a specially designed “I Bleed 49ers Green” T-shirt, while supplies last, and be entered to win additional prizes like spirit gear from Barnes & Noble at UNC Charlotte bookstore.
Since 2010, the college has hosted the drive to help increase blood donations during the challenging winter season. Seasonal illnesses, like the flu, can cause some donors to become temporarily ineligible to donate, and winter weather can lead to canceled blood drives. Despite these challenges, patients still depend on lifesaving donations every day.
Shamari Inuwa is one of those patients. Shamari, a recent UNC Charlotte graduate, was born with sickle cell disease, an inherited red blood cell disorder. Red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of the body. People with sickle cell disease have abnormally shaped red blood cells, and the condition can cause anemia, tissue and organ damage, strokes and pain.
In high school, Shamari began experiencing numbness in her hands and feet, sometimes just for a few seconds. But over time, the loss of feeling in her hands and feet increased in frequency and duration. In the most severe episode, she stood up after class and felt half her body go numb. Extreme pain brought her to the emergency room, and doctors discovered that she was experiencing mini-strokes. Shamari needed a blood transfusion immediately.
“That initial transfusion saved my life,” she said. Shamari began receiving transfusions about once per month to reduce the risk of further mini-strokes, called transient ischemic attacks. She has continued the treatment over eight years—for a total of nearly 100 blood transfusions. “The transfusions have enabled me to have a normal life and successfully complete college, despite my illness,” she said.
Shamari, who graduated with a degree in biology, hopes to use her education and personal experience to help others in the healthcare field. She’s an advocate for sickle cell disease research, and hopes to work toward more treatment options for the disease that affects as many as 100,000 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
She encourages people to give blood to make an impact. “Even though you don't know who your blood is going to, you know that it’s someone who really needs it, whether it’s a transplant patient, someone in an accident or someone with a serious chronic disorder,” she said. “It’s really true - you are prolonging life.”
Organizers recommend that donors schedule an appointment for this blood drive by visiting redcrossblood.org and entering the sponsor code “49ers4Life,” calling 1-800-RED CROSS or downloading the Red Cross Blood Donor App.
How to donate blood
To make an appointment, download the free Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Donors can use RapidPass to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, from a computer or laptop. Visit redcrossblood.org/RapidPass to get started.
A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in.
Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.
About the American Red Cross
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.