By Steve Huffman
Givers and receivers gathered Tuesday at the Salisbury Civic Center to discuss their experiences with blood donations.
On the one hand were those who have given large quantities of blood to the Red Cross.
On the other were those who owe their lives to blood transfusions.
They gathered at the Civic Center as part of the Elizabeth Hanford Dole Red Cross Chapter’s annual summer blood drive. The chapter had a goal of 110 pints for Tuesday’s drive.
By 3 p.m., almost 100 people had donated or were in the process of donating. The drive continued until 5:30 p.m., meaning the Red Cross was almost certain to reach its goal.
Red Cross officials said that the summer drive at the Civic Center and the holiday drive held a few days before Christmas are the biggest drives of the year for the Rowan County chapter.
Curtis Hamrick, 42, of Granite Quarry, was one who gave blood at Tuesday’s drive. Hamrick isn’t sure of the number of gallons of blood he’s donated, but the total, he said, is considerable.
He’s given more than 2 gallons since moving to Rowan County and gave a number of gallons more in his native Florida.
Hamrick said he’s always believed in donating blood because his sister had open heart surgery at the age of 11 and he witnessed firsthand the need for such donations.
“It’s just my way of paying it back,” Hamrick said of the blood his sister received during her surgery.
Hamrick’s 17-year-old daughter, Lori, also donated blood Tuesday and helped with the organization of the event. She’s a member of Learn of Rowan Junior Civitans, one of the sponsors of Tuesday’s drive.
The other sponsors were Arby’s, Cheerwine and the Red Cross.
Another longtime donor who attended Tuesday’s drive was Jake Mayer, a 65-year-old Salisbury resident.
Like Hamrick, Mayer isn’t sure of the exact number of gallons he’s donated to the Red Cross, but said it’s considerable.
Mayer was once a Red Cross employee, working in the blood collection department as a truck driver.
Mayer said that after decades of donating blood, he needed some of it back after suffering with a hemorrhaging ulcer in 2002.
“I’m an Indian giver,” Mayer said, laughing at the fact that he needed five pints of blood during the surgery to correct his ulcer.
He said he became a blood donor after going to work for the Red Cross and seeing all the work that went into collecting a pint of blood. He noted that only 5 percent of eligible donors give, meaning they support the other 95 percent who choose not to donate.
“I just became a believer,” Mayer said. “This is a worthwhile cause.”
Mayer had heart bypass surgery two months ago and won’t be able to give blood again for another year.
He said he looks forward to the day he can donate again. “I’m very much a part of the system,” Mayer said.
Another on hand at Tuesday’s drive was Rachel Curry, a 34-year-old Salisbury resident.
Curry said she’s never donated blood, but realized the importance of those who do when she had to undergo open heart surgery in February.
The blood she received through transfusions, she said, kept her alive. “This is so important, I tell you,” Curry said, motioning to those in front of her who were donating blood Tuesday.
She said that since learning of the importance of donating blood, she’s tried to pass along the message to her friends and family. “They all know what I went through,” Curry said. “They know how important it is to give blood.”
Also at the Civic Center Tuesday were Tracy Campbell and her 15-year-old daughter, Kimberly.
When Kimberly was 11, doctors discovered that she had an auto-immune disorder that required emergency surgery.
“It’s a helpless feeling watching your child fight for everything she’s got,” Tracy said. “Mommy can’t kiss it and make it better.”
She said that if it weren’t for the blood transfusions her daughter received, she wouldn’t have survived the surgery.
Tracy said the experience made her an advocate for blood donations. In addition to donating blood on a regular basis, Tracy also gives blood platelets, which are used for patients suffering certain forms of cancer.
Sherry Smith, blood services director for the local Red Cross chapter, said now is a wonderful time for newcomers to get involved in donating blood.
She said there is almost always a tremendous need for blood, and said the present time is especially critical, with less than a day’s supply of O-Positive blood on hand.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or email@example.com.