MHS blood drive achieves new record for donors

Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Marshall High School junior Hayley Heinzler, left, gives blood at the MHS Blood Drive on March 15. Community Blood Center staff member Johnique Jordan prepares Heinzler's arm.

The Marshall High School Blood Drive on Wednesday, March 15, achieved a first, a most and a last.

The "first" was the introduction of a new blood collection system using a machine called Alyx. The "most" was the number of donors who attended, 338, which is a new record for MHS blood drives. And the "last" was the final blood drive at MHS for physiology teacher Ginger McGraw, who has coordinated the event for the past 17 years but is retiring from MHS after this year.

Alyx is a "component collection system" that has been in use since August, according to Kris Baker, collection supervisor for Community Blood Center.

"Most donors love it," she said, even though it takes a little longer than conventional methods. "Some people who normally get a little light-headed don't with this."

That's because after the Alyx system receives blood it extracts red blood cells and then returns the plasma and some saline solution to the donor, keeping him or her better hydrated than with conventional collection methods, she said.

The system also uses smaller needles than do conventional methods.

Donor comfort is one advantage of the new system, but another is speed. Because the machine extracts red blood cells, the most commonly sought-after component of blood, lab time spent filtering blood is eliminated, Baker said.

It generally takes more than 72 hours for blood collected by conventional means to be available to hospitals, she said. With Alyx, red blood cells are available in less than 72 hours.

"It's so important to get blood out as fast as possible," she said.

Three of the new machines were available at the blood drive Wednesday and 15 donors gave it a try, according to McGraw.

McGraw was pleased with the turnout for her last blood drive at MHS. She had hoped to collect 300 or more units of blood, and although a record number of donors participated, with deferrals factored in the final number of units donated was 263.

Liberty High School collected 274 units a few weeks ago, she said, "so we didn't regain our number one status."

Compared to the early years of her career as blood drive coordinator, the results were excellent. The drive collected 60 units the year before she started coordinating it and 93 in her first year.

"We did very well and we're very proud of the kids," McGraw said. "And I just really appreciate all the people who took time out of their day to come give blood."

Contact Eric Crump at

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