Valley High senior organizing blood drive as supplies reach historic lows

·3 min read

Jan. 23—A Valley High School senior is organizing a blood drive at a time when blood inventories are at historic lows.

Brooke Alcorn Ferry, 17, of New Kensington is staging the Feb. 28 blood drive as part of the community service hours she needs to graduate.

It will be open to students 16 and older and New Kensington-Arnold employees; it will not be open to the public.

Ferry said she has an interest in being a phlebotomist — a person who draws blood from patients — and wants to be a nurse.

"I always had an interest in the medical field," she said. "The last time I got blood drawn, I thought, 'I wonder how they do that, how they find the veins, and what the job is.' "

Ferry said a teacher, Lorin Ervin, knew of her interest in phlebotomy and suggested she try running a blood drive. She has talked to fellow seniors about donating, sent notices to the district's faculty and staff, and planned to talk to juniors in their English classes.

"It's all going to a good cause," Ferry said. "It's in short supply. It's not all that hard. You just give up your time and a little pinch. It's a good thing to do for the community and people you don't even know. You could be saving their lives."

Blood supplies are at crisis levels, said Cletus McConville, account manager for donor services with the American Red Cross Greater Alleghenies region. The covid pandemic, winter weather and canceled blood drives are among the contributing factors.

"We've never seen it this low. That's industrywide," he said. "Everybody's struggling."

The consequence of a lack of blood is that elective surgeries are often put off.

"Hospitals that make orders for a certain amount of blood are getting a fraction of that," he said. "If a surgical procedure isn't necessary, if it's not an emergency, it won't get done or it gets rescheduled.

"The problem is that rescheduling often results in further complications — and the need for more blood."

McConville has been working with Ferry and Ervin on Ferry's blood drive. He said their goal is to collect 33 pints of blood, which can save about 115 lives. With 14 of the 33 appointment slots filled as of Tuesday, and more than a month to go, he's confident they'll reach it.

"She's an example of a student who sees a problem, gets involved directly and rolls up their sleeves and tries to solve it," he said. "It's commendable."

Ervin is New Kensington-Arnold's gifted program coordinator and sponsor of the Interact Club, which helps students perform community service. She has known Ferry for about three years.

"She's very mature, responsible and dedicated to everything she does," Ervin said.

While Ervin said she suggested the blood drive, Ferry ran with it.

"Some kids are donating blood for the first time. Some of them are leery of it, but they're still going to give it a go. It could be a lifelong opportunity of a way to give back if you don't mind it. That's what we're hoping for," she said.

"It's gotten such a good response from the administration all the way down through the students. I hope it can be an annual event we hold at the school," Ervin said.

Ultimately, Ferry said, she wants to be a labor and delivery nurse.

"I always thought it was so amazing that people can just produce this tiny human that is going to grow up and have their own completely and totally unique thoughts and feelings and perspective of the world," she said. "I thought it would be really cool to assist the mothers that are bringing these babies into the world and being part of the baby's life as they're beginning it."

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, or via Twitter .