With preparedness close to their hearts and public service in their veins, giving back comes naturally – and so does the life-saving product they’re donating.
On World Blood Donor Day the World Health Organization warns that when disaster strikes, and people need medical assistance, they can’t wait around for the supplies they need to come. It is the days and months before the earthquake or storm strikes that are crucial to making sure those supplies are ready when they’re needed. For this reason and many more, team members of the Nuclear Security Enterprise literally give of themselves around the world by donating blood.
Andi Kasarsky – chief of staff of NNSA’s research, development, test, and evaluation office – explained that she gives blood regularly, after the example set by her mother. As a teacher, Kasarsky’s mother regularly gave at school blood drives. When Kasarsky, as an adult, noticed blood drive announcements at work, she signed right up.
“From an early age, I took note of this selfless, kind act,” Kasarsky said. “My mother had no idea who would benefit from her blood, but she knew someone needed it and that was enough for her.”
“DOE makes it so easy to contribute,” Kasarsky said. “You sign up online, spend no more than an hour signing in, giving blood and then rehydrating yourself with juice, water or snacks. A bit of time makes a significant difference in the life of someone who needs our blood.”
Joe Schriner is a program engineer in NNSA’s defense programs, and gives for two reasons, he said.
“At first I was motivated by the universality of my blood,” Shriner said. “But now that I have a family, it is hard not to empathize for those who are in situations that require blood transfusions. Hopefully we never find ourselves needed that kind of medical care, but how would I feel if we did and there was no blood on the shelf, knowing I could have done something about it but didn’t?”
Many of the locations at which NNSA team members work host onsite blood drives to help meet the worldwide need.
NNSA’s Kansas City National Security Campus (KCNSC) has regular blood drives onsite. In April 2017, 104 participants gave 96 units of blood. Among the participants were 30 first-time donors, and it was KCNSC’s most successful blood drive since 2008.
Kathy Segura, a senior finance analyst at KCNSC started donating in high school with the mindset of doing a good deed.
“Years later, my sister developed leukemia, so it became much more personal,” Segura said. “I love the opportunity to make a blood donation at work - it's so convenient just to run downstairs instead of driving somewhere else!”
Each year, the Savannah River Site hosts dozens of blood drives around the site. This year personnel with the Savannah River Tritium Enterprise (SRTE) will have a total of six opportunities to donate onsite.
"Donating blood can save another person's life. Cancer and surgery patients, accident victims, and more are always in need of blood. When you give blood, it gives someone a most precious gift - the gift of life," said Jan Johnson of SRTE, who coordinates the area's blood drives.
The most recent drive at SRTE on May 30 yielded 48 units, enough to help save 144 lives. Eddy Stein of the Savannah River National Laboratory took advantage of the blood drive to give back.
"I see donating blood as a simple way to do good for the community," Stein said. "It gives me the opportunity to help save lives."
Standards for blood donation are strict, and sometimes inhibit certain people from donating in the usual ways – but that doesn’t stop NNSA’s team members from finding ways to help. Gary Palmer, who works in NNSA’s stockpile management organization, is retired from the Air Force and has been involved in blood donation despite a condition that prevents him from donating to others.
“Instead, I regularly donate to research activities through a research blood collection,” Palmer said. “They collect whole and partial blood products, such as plasma, for research into storing, preparing and transferring blood and blood products. It's a great alternative for people who can't offer transfusion participation because of conditions that might prevent it.”
Byron Moe, an accountant working at NNSA, is the blood drive coordinator at the Albuquerque Complex. He is barred from giving blood because of his travel history.
“I support donating blood because of the help donations give to others,” Moe said. “I volunteer to set up and run the blood drives because it still provides a mechanism for me to serve others and to help those that can donate have a time and place to give their donation.”
One employee at NNSA’s Sandia National Laboratories recently passed the 8-gallon blood donation milestone
“It’s a really easy way to help others and save lives. People need blood, and currently there’s only one way to get it,” Frank Jennings said.
In total, Sandia team members donated 1,167 units of blood last year, potentially saving more than 3,500 lives.
Jennings said he didn’t set out to break any records.
“I don’t remember having an initial vision of a lifetime of donating blood, but once I realized that it was pretty quick and painless, there wasn’t any reason not to continue.”