Three generations of life savers

Published 10:16 am Friday, October 24, 2008

Upon hearing the words “family activity,” many would immediately think of a relaxed dinner, a board game or perhaps a movie night, but for grandmother Sheri Newhouse, mother Kris Carroll and son Jacob Carroll, 17, saving lives has become a family affair. On Oct. 21, these Austin residents donated blood at the Mower County Chapter of the American Red Cross blood drive at Oak Park Mall as a family.

The tradition began with Sheri.

“When I first gave blood, it was when my father was dying of cancer,” she said. Since then her family has been donating on a regular basis.

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For blood donation veterans, Sheri and Kris, this was one of many blood donation opportunities they have taken advantage of, but for Jacob, it was a first.

Kris remembers her first time donating because the drive she was attending was interrupted by a tornado warning. Tuesday’s drive had no such interruption.

This family has no fear of the needle.

“I wanted to give blood last year at school,” Jacob said. “I’m really just curious about what my blood type is.” He plans to be a regular at future blood drives.

Even though this was a family effort, there was still some light-hearted competition. The trio had a race to see who could fill their bag the fastest. The winner was Sheri with a time of 4 minutes, 59 seconds, followed closely by Kris, with a time of 5 minutes, 20 seconds and Jacob with a time of 7 minutes, 10 seconds.

In this competition everyone comes out ahead. The Red Cross gets blood to help those in need, and the donors get the satisfaction of helping.

“I feel so good after, knowing that it’s going to help someone,” Sheri said.

“Don’t be afraid to do it; I have always felt good afterward knowing I might have saved a life,” Kris said.

Mary Hyland, the Blood Services coordinator for the Mower County Chapter of the American Red Cross, is in her fifth year of coordinating blood drives in the area for willing volunteers such as Sheri, Kris and Jacob. She has helped organize more than 20 drives, including Tuesday’s.

“I enjoy being out at the drive, seeing the process, the end result of everything and the dedicated donors,” Hyland said.

The Mower County Chapter of the American Red Cross organized four blood drives this year: February, June, August and October. The next opportunity to donate is on Thursday, Oct. 30 at the Mower County Senior Center from noon to 4 p.m.

Nationwide, only about 38 percent of the population is eligible to donate blood, and only 8 percent donate. Hyland says that the summer travel season is when there is the greatest demand for blood, but donations of all blood types are needed year round.

Each unit — one pint — can be separated into three components to help multiple people. One accident victim alone could require anywhere from four to 20 units of red cells. If there is not an immediate need platelets can be stored up to five days, red cells up to 42 days and plasma up to one year.

An individual can donate blood every 56 days, red cells every 112 days. To be eligible to donate a person must be 17 years old or older, weigh 110 pounds and be in good health.

As of July 1 of this year, 16-year-olds can donate with a parent’s signature.

Anyone interested in donating blood or volunteering time for the Red Cross can call the Mower County Chapter at 437-4589 or visit givebloodgivelife. org.