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For the week of  September 19 - 25, 2001


Idahoans turn out for post-attack blood drive

Express Staff Writer

Braving gusty winds and long lines, a number of Wood River Valley residents traveled south last Wednesday to donate blood at the Jerome Community Blood Drive.

Tammy Damron, right, an RMA for American Red Cross of Greater Idaho, prepares Jerome resident Maggie Mihlfried for a blood donation Thursday afternoon. Express photo by Matt Smylie

Scheduled months ago, but made more relevant by the attacks Sept. 11 on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, people from all over Southcentral Idaho turned out for the blood drive, which takes place in Jerome four or five times a year.

"But this has been exceptionally busy," said Sharan Pike, mobile supervisor for the American Red Cross of Greater Idaho. "Everybody wants to do their part."

As part of a group of eight people that constantly travels as far north as Grangeville and into southeast Oregon, Pike said she was excited when her group entered the St. Jerome Catholic Parish to see someone had places a flag on one of the walls.

"I thought that was very cool," she said.

After each dayís blood drive, Pike said the donations are couriered to Boise, where they are processed and then normally distributed to Idaho hospitals. With each donationís ability to save three lives, blood collected in Idaho can be shipped to other parts of the nation, but such a transfer is rare, she said.

The larger number of people turning up at blood drives after the terrorist attacks is not unique to Idaho, Pike said, with reports of the Red Cross having to turn back would-be donors across the nation.

And because red blood cells can last for only 42 days, and plasma (which is frozen) a year, Pike said those who havenít given blood yet may want to wait a month or so until the need arises again.

The rush to give blood right after the attack, Pike said, was likely because of the impulse to help the wounded in New York and Washington, D.C.

"They had anticipated a lot of injured, but instead they had lots of casualties," she said.

Bellevue resident Eric Muro said he has been donating blood for about 40 years, and that it makes him feel like a larger part of the community.

"For a half hour of my time, I get the reassurance that my blood is going to someone who really needs it," he said. "And that makes it all worthwhile."

Melissa Benkula, a first-time donor from Jerome, said she was convinced to donate a pint of blood after seeing the dead and injured in New York on television.

"Iím a rare blood type, so I can help those that others canít," she said.

Regardless of whether her blood will be administered to a victim of the attack, Benkula said last weekís event have changed how secure U.S. citizens feel.

"I think that thing in New York has had a profound impact on everyoneís lives, whether theyíre here in the United States or overseas," she said.

Although this was her first time donating blood as well, Wendell resident Megan Landers said she had signed up for the drive two days before the tragedies.

"Iíd signed up three times before, but this is the first time I actually did it," she said. "Itís a really good feeling, and Iím signing up for the next one right after this."

Sun Valley resident James Koda said he was able to take off from work early to give blood, and didnít mind the drive to and from Jerome.

"It really doesnít take much of an effort to do this, and the result is much more worthwhile than whatever else Iíd be doing this afternoon," he said.

Since retiring several years ago, Jerome resident Betty Hyder said sheís been a volunteer at every blood drive in Jerome.

"Itís a nice thing to volunteer for, because people have a positive attitude when they come in," she said.

Adding two hours to the blood drive allowed for more donations, but still wasnít enough, Hyder said.

"The regulars came in as usual, but there were many new faces from all around," she said. "Thereís been walk-ins weíve had to turn down because we were so heavily booked. But thereís always next time."

Sun Valley blood drive

Where: The Hailey Armory

When: Oct. 16 from 1 to 6 p.m.

For more information or to make an appointment: Call Connie Porter at 788-3490.

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.