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Crater High student organizes blood drive

Ellie Laws needs your blood, and she needs it soon.

The Crater High School senior is organizing an American Red Cross blood drive Wednesday, Jan. 6, as part of her senior project, and since Central Point schools are closed to all but limited in-person instruction finding donors has been a real challenge.

Still, as of Tuesday afternoon Laws had secured 19 commitments, with each successful donation representing one unit of blood — or two units for “power red” donations, which take longer to sit through but yield two units of whole blood that contains red blood cells, platelets, plasma and white blood cells. Laws’ goal is 41, so she’s hoping donors turn out in force today.

“It’ll be fun,” she said. “We’ll get a lot of people, hopefully, coming out and get some blood.”

Those who wish to donate can do so from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Medford Donor Center, 1174 Progress Dr. To make an appointment or to learn more, visit redcrossblood.org, call 1-800-733-2767 or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. High school students (who must be at least 16 years old) and other donors 18 and older must meet certain height and weight requirements — a 4-foot-6 female, for instance, must weigh at least 146 pounds — and adults must weigh at least 110 pounds.

Laws, 17, is in her fourth year helping to organize Red Cross blood drives since first helping her older brother, Ryan Laws, run the show as a freshman. But signing up donors during a pandemic is a different animal, and she knows it will be difficult to eclipse last year’s haul. In 2020, Laws’ drive at Crater High yielded 37 units, and another at LDS Stake Center brought in 44.

However that was back when Laws, who is targeting a career in the medical field, could make her pitch face-to-face or class-to-class. This year, with those options off the table, Laws was forced to be even more resourceful. She used the district’s email network to reach out to teachers and students who have donated in the past, then had the district post the blood drive’s flyer on the platform it uses to release grades and announcements, known as Student View.

For the power red donations, Laws said she typically targets football players, because the weight requirements are higher.

So why donate? Laws says it’s always important to help replenish the blood supply, but especially this time of year.

“We don’t have enough blood all the time,” she said, “but during the winter it is especially hard to get donors because a lot of people who come in to donate get turned away because in the winter months people are sick and their iron levels aren’t high enough. So we have a lot of people who can’t donate.”

Laws likes to quote a statistic she says usually gets a strong reaction: every donation can save up to three lives.

“A lot of people who hear that are like, ‘Wow, that’s crazy,’” she said.

As someone who has sat in the donation seat — she donated for the first time last year — Laws understands why some may be apprehensive to donate their blood. Besides being a donor herself, she has also worked as a blood buddy — that is, somebody who sits next to a donor to help calm their nerves or explain the process as the tube turns red.

“You usually just talk to them,” she said. “There’s usually one person who’s with each person who’s giving blood, so you’re just talking to them, trying to keep in mind the fact that they’re actually giving blood. I’ve had a couple people who have had to sit there for a while after they gave blood or lay down because they didn’t drink enough water or eat enough food before.

“Yes, I think that I understand why people sometimes don’t want to do it, but once you actually do it, it’s not that bad. You just have to make sure that you drink a lot of water and eat good food before, otherwise it might not be so good.”

Students from South Medford High and North Medford High will be organizing blood drives later this month. The South Medford drive will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 21, at the South Medford gym, 1551 Cunningham Ave., and the North Medford blood drive will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 27, at its gym, 1900 N. Keene Way.

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@rosebudmedia.com.

Ellie Laws, left, and her brother Ryan Laws pose during the 2020 Crater High School blood drive. Ellie Laws is organizing this year's drive, which will be held today at the Medford Donor Center (1174 Progress Drive).