FARMINGTON (AP) — Much of the blood stored for emergencies in New Mexico and neighboring states was drawn from teenage arms.
Each local high school hosts two or more blood drives per year, and students are a major supplier of the state’s blood supply.
Last school year, high school blood drives in the Four Corners region which includes most of northwest New Mexico and several high schools in surrounding states accounted for 5 percent of the region’s blood supply, said Charlene Smith, a spokeswoman for United Blood Services.
Farmington High School students donated more blood than almost any other high school in the state last year.
Farmington students donated 317 units of blood in the 2010-2011 school year. The New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell was the only school that gave more blood in the same time period. That school donated 344 units.
A unit of blood is about 500 milliliters, or slightly less than a pint. A unit is the amount drawn from each donor, said Sheron Farrow, the donor recruiter representative for United Blood Services in Farmington.
“Farmington just does a tremendous job. (The high school) has been holding blood drives since United Blood Services was founded in Farmington,” Farrow said. “The students work very hard and I’m very proud of them.”
Students have to be 17 years old to donate blood unless they have a parent’s permission to give blood at age 16.
Shiprock High School students donated 181 units of blood last school year. Aztec High School donated 154 units, Bloomfield High School donated 137 units and Piedra Vista High School donated 135 units.
Farmington High School’s Student Senate hosted four days of blood drives last school year, said Francine Briones, the sophomore class president at FHS who helped organize the blood drives.
“It’s a way to give back to the community and it’s for a good cause,” Briones said. “We tell (the students) their blood will be going to help someone who could be in a life-threatening situation. We also have another incentive of a root beer float or an ice cream sundae.”
All the blood local high school students donate ends up at one of nine hospitals in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah or Colorado, Farrow said.
There are many reasons for a blood transfusion. Patients in an accident, receiving cancer treatment and sometimes new-born children and pregnant mothers need a transfusion, Smith said.
“One in three people will need a blood transfusion in their lifetime,” she said.
Twelve percent of New Mexico’s blood supply comes from high school blood drives around the state, she said.
“We suffer in the summer time,” Farrow said. “We definitely miss the high schools.”
Most local high schools offer blood drives in the fall and spring. Students who help organize blood drives and attend a New Mexico or Four Corners region high school that hosts at least two drives per year are eligible for one of six $500 college scholarships, Farrow said.
The spring blood drive season is underway. Kirtland Central High School hosted a blood drive Wednesday in the school’s library.
Rocinante, Farmington, Piedra Vista, Newcomb, Window Rock and Coronado high schools have blood drives in March. Aztec, Bloomfield and Vista Nueva high schools have blood drives in April. Shiprock is hosting a blood drive in early May.
Mariah Sandoval, a junior at Kirtland, gave blood for the second time during Wednesday’s drive. She donated blood during a drive at the high school her sophomore year as well.
Sandoval gives blood because she has a grandfather with hepatitis who has needed blood transfusions.
“I feel like I’m donating for him,” she said. “I tried to get as many friends as I could to donate blood, too.”