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La Jolla High School to host first blood drive in two years

Robert Nauman of the San Diego Blood Bank and La Jolla High junior Aiden Kleinman have organized a blood drive for March 16.
Robert Nauman of the San Diego Blood Bank and La Jolla High School junior Aiden Kleinman have organized a blood drive at the school for Wednesday, March 16.
(Courtesy of Aiden Kleinman)

La Jolla High School students are hoping their upcoming blood drive will be a big draw to help bolster low local blood supplies.

The drive, in partnership with the San Diego Blood Bank, will run from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 16, at the Little Gym at LJHS, 750 Nautilus St. Donors must be 17 or older with identification, weigh at least 114 pounds and be in good health.

Potential donors, except those vaccinated against COVID-19, who have been diagnosed with or are suspected of having the illness are deferred for 10 days from the date the symptoms resolve.

Aiden Kleinman, a junior at La Jolla High and the PTSA student affairs chairman, worked with San Diego Blood Bank territory manager Robert Nauman to organize the blood drive after learning of a critical shortage.

Currently, “the nation’s blood supply remains at one of its lowest levels in recent years,” with the San Diego Blood Bank experiencing its worst shortage in more than a decade, Nauman said.

“We have a one-day total supply of red blood cells available,” he said last week, which could lead to hospitals canceling elective surgeries and some critical care patients not receiving transfusions.

Normally, he said, the blood bank has a three- to five-day supply on its shelves.

“We are really struggling to meet the needs of the hospitals just for their normal procedures,” Nauman said. “If we had an emergency on top of that, it would really be trouble for patients.”

He said COVID-19 cases and storms around the nation can disrupt blood supplies and lead to a decline in donor turnout, but the need for blood remains constant.

Before the pandemic, the San Diego Blood Bank collected about 30 percent of its blood at mobile drives at high schools and colleges, Nauman said. “We lost those resources once the pandemic began, and it has been a slow process regaining them.”

He said the March 16 drive will be the bank’s first at La Jolla High since March 2020.

When Aiden heard about the blood shortage, he also learned that in California, the minimum age for donors is 17, which “encompasses all of the seniors and most of the juniors” at LJHS, or nearly half the student body, he said.

When he realized that such a large group of people could donate, he met with school administrators and Nauman to set up an on-campus blood drive, he said.

Though Aiden is 16 and too young to donate, he said it was nonetheless important to him “to let students know that they can donate.”

“So many people have no idea that they can, no idea how easy it is and no idea how important it is really and how many people in the community are desperately needing it,” he said.

The LJHS blood drive’s goal is 30 donations, Aiden said. Each donation is about a pint, and one pint can save up to three lives, he said.

“In just one morning, [about] 100 people will have their lives touched by the donors at La Jolla High School,” Nauman said.

He said most blood donations are used to help cancer and transplant patients and those undergoing other surgeries or receiving treatment for inherited blood disorders.

Someone needs blood every two seconds, Nauman said, and 4.5 million patients need transfusions each year in the United States and Canada.

One unit, or pint, of blood can be separated into several components, including red blood cells, plasma and platelets. Donated platelets can be stored up to five days; frozen plasma can be stored for a year.

Aiden said La Jolla High PTSA student volunteers will be helping the San Diego Blood Bank during the drive with paperwork, holding hands of nervous donors and providing snacks to participants.

“Students can contribute, and it’s important for them to do so,” he said.

Appointments for the blood drive are encouraged, but walk-ins are welcome. To make an appointment, visit bit.ly/LJHSblooddrive.