Twice a semester at Colorado State University-Pueblo, a glossy, bright red van with the phrase, “Give Blood. Save Lives.” painted on its side arrives at the Occhiato University Center. The vehicle is owned by Bonfils, a blood donation organization that hosts several drives throughout Colorado.
Shortly after arriving, the center’s employees hastily unload the contents of the van, which range from chairs to intricate medical equipment, inside the OUC ballroom. The next four hours will be a frenzy of students and faculty filing in and out of the makeshift donor center, eager to give a piece of themselves for the well-being of a stranger.
In the midst of all of this chaos is Megan McCarter, the community donor representative for Bonfils.
McCarter said the Pueblo region is the vastest for all of Bonfils, despite the city’s lack of a stand-alone center. She explained that the region stretches for several miles west, south and east of Pueblo. Bonfils reaches these areas through mobile blood drives, which take place in the organization’s van or a room.
After it is collected, the blood is shipped to Denver, where it undergoes a series of lab tests to determine whether it is suitable to be used on a patient. This includes ensuring that the blood is not infected with any viruses that could be spread to another person. McCarter said this is quite a process.
The blood is then sold to hospitals, which use it for patients who are ill or who have suffered a traumatic accident and need a transfusion.
“The blood that is donated is blood that is used to save people’s lives,” McCarter said.
It is possible for people to be compensated for their donations. In that case, however, their blood is used for research purposes and is not given to patients who desperately need it.
McCarter explained that giving blood is a frugal way to make a difference, as monetary donations are not required. It also does not take a lot of time, hardly ever lasting more than an hour.
For those still on the fence about donating, McCarter was adamant that the process is extremely safe. She said Bonfils uses needles that can only be used once.
Additionally, all of the phlebotomists use gloves when handling the equipment.
Though the concept of needles is frightening for some, McCarter said that the experience is different for everyone. She said eating a large meal and hydrating before donation can make the process easier.
Ryan Chepovsky, a member of the Circle K club at the university, said it was his first time donating blood. He said that one of the club members reminded him about the blood drive. Chepovsky said the worst part about donating was the being stuck with the needle.
“I’ve never been a fan of needles,” he said.
But he agreed that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. After they are done with the process, donors can choose from an assortment of chips, trail mixes and cookies at the snack table.
Chepovsky seemed eager to participate in the next blood drive. However, like all other donors, he will only be eligible to donate again after 56 days.
Those interested in donating blood can go to www.bonfils.org, or like the organization on Facebook under BonfilsBloodCenter.