Rachel Nicole Shelton laid back on a seat in the South Texas Blood Mobile as a pint of blood was pulled from her arm on Tuesday afternoon.
Shelton, a 19-year-old Texas Lutheran University student, opted to join several others in rolling up their sleeves to help save lives during a blood drive on the campus.
“It’s always been really important to me, especially since a good friend of mine had cancer,” Shelton said. “A lot of times cancer patients and patients with terminal diseases need blood transfusions so I figure this is kind of my little way of honoring him.”
Just 10 days away from her 20th birthday, the young blood donor is set to pursue her master’s degree in data analytics this fall, she said.
Although she is busy, Shelton tries to put time aside every few months to supply those who are in desperate need of the life-saving fluid.
“I try to give blood at least once every two months,” she said. “I’m not always able to during that time frame but I do make time every time I get a chance. The people that come out to the school seem to have the easiest time getting my blood. It takes me longer than most to donate because my veins are small and deep under the skin.”
Taking Shelton’s donation is a team from the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center in San Antonio that frequent the TLU campus, as well as many other locations throughout Seguin, in the large donation buses or trucks known as “Blood Mobiles,” Roger Ruiz, corporate communications specialist for STBTC said.
The South Texas Blood and Tissue Center came to Seguin’s Texas Lutheran University in hopes of gathering blood for those who need it most.
“Patients rely on us every day for whatever treatments they may need,” Ruiz said. “Whether they have been burn victims, premature babies, mothers, the list goes on and on of patients that need our help every day. That’s why we have the mission of going out and saving lives every day through the help of the community of coming in and donating.”
Although the blood bank could always use donations, blood can be particularly scarce during the summer and winter months due to most of the donations coming from high schools and colleges making up over 20% of donations, Ruiz said.
“There are certain times when we see a lack of donations,” Ruiz said. “Usually it’s during the summer because people are on vacation so we have to accommodate that somehow. It also declines during the winter holidays, like Christmas and Thanksgiving because school’s out. Blood transfusions don’t take a holiday, patients still need our help and still need to get better and get back to their lives.”
The majority of the blood that is needed by the STBTC also happens to be the most common, being O positive and O negative.
“Right now we’re feeling the effect of needing O donors. O negative is that universal type that can be transferred to anybody,” Ruiz said. “And O positive is the majority of the population. So we’re running low on O negative and O positive. We need all blood donations, but especially those with that blood type to come in and donate.”
To qualify to donate potential donors must adhere to certain qualifications, be adequately hydrated and come with a full stomach to prepare for the process, blood drive truck Team Leader Victor Castillo said.
“They must weigh at least 110 pounds, know all the shots and medications that they take, know any kind of travel that they have had in the last three years and any travel in Europe,” Castillo said. “Also if they’ve had piercings or tattoos in the last 12 months. None of that will defer them right away but people can go on our website and answer a questionnaire to see if they are eligible.”
The STBTC has been taking donations within Seguin and its surrounding areas for more than 45 years and operates in more than 48 different counties, Ruiz said.
“We serve hundreds of hospitals and clinics throughout South Texas,” he said. “It takes about 400 units (donations) a day to adequately supply all those hospitals and clinics that we serve. We try to partner with organizations like TLU and other organizations like church groups, businesses, high schools, and colleges to adequately collect and distribute to the counties that we serve.”
The STBTC visits Seguin numerous times a month. The dates of visitations and locations can be found at www.southtexasblood.org or by calling 210-731-5590.