The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The high school revives an old tradition: blood drives

More than 50 people gave blood during the drive, which took place on Thursday, April 27 in the STEM wing.

Students and faculty gathered to participate in a blood drive hosted by the high school and organized by junior Kaylyn Kirrane and Science Curriculum Coordinator Ed Wiser on Thursday, April 27 from 8:30 a.m to 1:30 p.m. While the high school has historically hosted annual blood drives, the tradition had fallen out of practice in recent years due to disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This revival of the high school’s annual blood drive is tied to a long tradition of student activism at the high school. Students in the past have protested against discriminatory FDA regulation in relation to blood drives, and students today have continued to organize and donate to blood drives and raise awareness to discrimination surrounding who can and cannot donate blood.

According to Wiser, the idea of hosting a blood drive came from his Medical Careers class, where his class was discussing blood donations and how they function. A student asked Wiser why the high school hasn’t hosted a blood drive in years. This led Wiser to investigate the history of blood drives at the high school and reach out to the American Red Cross, laying the foundation for this year’s blood drive

Kirrane became involved in the organizing effort through taking the Medical Careers class.

“We were talking [in class] about different ways to help the community and also pursue the career you want. Mr. Wiser came up with the idea to organize a blood drive, and he asked me to help, and that became my independent study,” Kirrane said.

Kirrane said it was difficult to organize a blood drive because of specific qualifications donors needed to meet.

“There’s two different types of donations – there’s a whole blood donation and a power red [red cell apheresis],” Kirrane said. “In a power red, you give two pints of blood and they use a machine to put your plasma and platelets back and only take your red blood cells. For that, you have to be 19 and older for girls and 17 and older for boys. That’s why a lot of people aren’t doing power red today, because they’re not eligible.”

In Massachusetts, donors have to be 16 or older and meet certain weight requirements to be allowed to donate blood. Due to the 40 to 50 person requirement that needed to be fulfilled, Kirrane said she had to do considerable outreach.

“During my free blocks, I went around and signed people up on the computer,” Kirrane said. “I also texted people, I called people – mostly my friends, and they reached out to other people, too. But mostly, during those free blocks, I just walked around and asked people, asked teachers, anyone I could get because we had to fill 54 slots, which we were able to do.”

Junior Oliver Stern, who signed up and donated blood, said the process for him was quick and unobtrusive.

“You pretty much just lie there and they connect a tube to your arm and then you just sit there until they have enough blood,” Stern said. “It probably took about ten, fifteen minutes, and I definitely think I would do it again. It was harmless, it didn’t hurt at all and it’s just a great thing to do.”

Wiser said that looking into the high school’s history with blood donations, especially with the Red Cross Club, which used to organize annual blood drives prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, has illuminated a spotlight on student activism and the change it can cause.

“After the AIDS epidemic, there were some people who were infected by HIV blood donors, which was a very stigmatizing part of the AIDS epidemic. So the FDA put in place some strong regulations against men who have sex with men in terms of blood donation. A lot of Brookline High students were concerned with that because the science didn’t match up,” Wiser said. “I think the powerful thing is that students, as well as people around the United States, put pressure on the FDA to make those changes and that those changes have happened. And I think that Brookline should feel proud for being a part of that campaign of awareness that’s helped move the country forward.”

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