Each December for the past 21 years, the Carolina community has come together focused on a common goal: provide help and hope to others in need of blood. Ever since the first successful blood transfusion in 1665, blood donations have saved countless lives. Every year, nearly 4.5 million Americans will need a blood transfusion. Giving blood through the Red Cross helps ensure that patients have access to lifesaving blood when they need it most. For Kewana Smith, coordinator for UNC’s Office of Rural Initiatives, the impact of blood donations is personal.
Smith’s younger sister was born with sickle cell anemia and other health complications that left her needing monthly treatments that were not possible without donor blood. Because her blood was not carrying oxygen properly throughout her body, due to sickle-shaped red blood cells that inhibit proper blood flow, the apheresis treatments removed her blood, separating the red cells, white cells, platelets and plasma. Her red cells were then replaced with healthy red cells provided by a donor and circulate back to her with the other blood components.
It was this constant need for blood that motivated Smith to begin giving blood in 2009. She has not stopped. Even after losing her sister in 2012, Smith continues to donate in her memory.
“I knew there were people who gave so that my sister could get her monthly, lifesaving treatments and I wanted to give back to other families what someone had given to our family,” Smith said.
This year, the Holiday Carolina Blood Drive, which Smith faithfully supports, falls on Tuesday, Dec. 10. That’s a special day for Smith; it’s her sister’s birthday.
“For me, donating blood is giving another big sister more time with their little sister, just as someone did for me,” Smith said.
In honor of her sister’s birthday, Smith encourages others to support the 21st annual Holiday Carolina Blood Drive, set for 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Fetzer Hall.
Between the Carolina Blood Drive in June and the Holiday Carolina Blood Drive in December, more than 33,367 pints of blood have been collected, potentially impacting more than 100,100 lives.
“Every day, I am grateful for those who gave blood for my sister,” Smith said. “And I am thankful for those who will consider giving blood at the Holiday Carolina Blood Drive on Dec. 10.”
The 21st annual Holiday Carolina Blood Drive is 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 10, in Fetzer Hall. Schedule your appointment or volunteer online or use the Blood Donor App and enter sponsor code UNC. Appointments are nearly full, so walk-ins may not be seen. Free parking will be available in Cobb Deck off Country Club Road. Donors can save up to 15 minutes at the donation site by using RapidPass.