Masks On, Sleeves Up

By Elise Marlett, Editor in Chief

The COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t cancel this decades-old tradition.

Not only did the West Bend High Schools maintain its annual blood drive, this year’s event ended up being Wisconsin’s largest one-day blood drive since the pandemic started. The drive, which was themed “Masks On, Sleeves Up,” took place Dec. 9 in the south gym.

Though typical for the high schools, organized blood drives have been a rare occurrence this year as the world grapples with the coronavirus, resulting in a blood shortage across the country. 

East science teacher Skip Clark has been running the blood drive since he started teaching 26 years ago. Clark says that regardless of the COVID-19 related precautions that could have potentially limited student turnout, over 200 students donated their blood.

“There were a lot of things we had to do differently,” Clark said. “We had to have fewer beds so we had to spread out. We had to have spacing when we were sitting in our pre-area. Compared to other schools (the student turnout) was awesome because other schools had to cancel and we didn’t.”

The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have changed all of life as we know it, but to East senior Claire Gustafson, the blood drive’s success was not altered by social distancing and precaution.

“It still ran smoothly and successfully,” Gustafson said. “There were fewer nurses and chairs for people to donate because of the pandemic, but the staff and participants handled it well and with grace.”

In this time of global uncertainty, students feel that giving to others is essential. East senior Hailee Porter participated in this year’s blood drive, acknowledging the importance of blood donation in a pandemic compared to previous years.

“While hospitals are short staffed and at full capacity, it is clear there is a need for more resources in our healthcare system,” Porter said. “Because I have tested positive for the antibodies, I have the potential to not only save lives with my whole blood, but to save more lives in the future with my plasma donation. We are part of a time where any little help can save more lives.”

Gustafson says that in these trying times, it is important to make time to help others. In her eyes, a blood donation does just that.

“The hospitals are in desperate need of blood due to the pandemic and I think that everyone who is able and healthy should make an appointment to donate blood and help save someone’s life,” Gustafson said.

Though the circumstances of this year put blood donations in higher demand, Clark says that giving blood is important in any year, a lesson he preaches to his classes often.

“You can’t reproduce it or manufacture it, you can only give it,” Clark said. “My big thing that I tell my students is that if you expect blood to be there when you go to the hospital then you have to be willing to give it.”

(Photos by Elise Marlett, Editor in Chief.)

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