Gift of life is best incentive

Published on
February 17, 2012

Some people require a gentle nudge, or even an incentive, before pushing up their sleeves to greet the blood donation needle, while others are so eager to give, they jump to the front of the line.

Union College hosted a blood drive earlier this week, and freshman Austin Riggs knows all about the different levels of enthusiasm that such an event can generate. He makes it his business to know because donations saved his brother's life.

This annual blood drive inspired a Facebook post on the Union College fan page, which asked if anyone would be willing to share personal experiences related to the benefits of donating blood. Almost immediately, Austin's mother, Union alumna and Barbourville native Debbie Owens Riggs, issued a reply:

"My youngest child had a life threatening illness and needed 13 blood transfusions. Donating blood is a top priority with our family." 

Austin' younger brother Owen, now in middle school, was born with a hole in his heart. In order to survive as a newborn, Owen received transfusions over the course of a month, until he was ready for open-heart surgery. Following this struggle, Owen was named Kentucky Children's Miracle Network Champion. 

The Riggs testimony lends credence to the notion that it's not important why you give, just that you do. 

Sometimes people will give blood because a tangible gift is involved. Union's Student Government Associated answered this call with movie passes to the first 40 students who donated. Additionally, Kentucky Blood Center, which organized the event, offered $10 Wal-Mart cards for donors. 

Regardless of what lures people in the door, people should know that their donations, no matter how large or small, are significant. People like Austin are very grateful and are eager to tell donors what an impact they have made.

"When you donate blood, you;re not just giving it away, you're saving a life," he said.

While it is rarely ill-advised to donate blood, there are certain situations that call for careful scheduling. Athletes, for example, should abstain from donating just prior to engaging in competitive games. As a case in point, Union hosted a swim meet just two days after the blood drive, which removed several students from the donation pool.

While it is unfortunate that the timing doesn't work out for everyone when a blood drive rolls around, people should keep in mind that donations can be made by visiting a donation center.

Union's blood drive ran from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Forty-five people donated, and out of that, professionals were able to collect 37 good units, or pints, of blood. The average red blood cell transfusion requires about 3.4 pints, so Union College was able to donate enough blood for approximately 10 transfusions. 

For more information about scheduling a blood donation, contact the Kentucky Blood Center at