For many people on Friday, the Valentine’s Day gift was red and came straight from the heart.
Their gift was blood, given after this week’s winter storm caused a critical blood shortage for a regional blood bank that helps almost two dozen hospitals.
Katie Pruett, 22, and Angel DiDomenico, 21, Winthrop students whose classes were canceled because of the storm, left lunch half-eaten to donate when word began to spread that supplies were so low that lives might be in danger.
“Blood is needed right now, and this is a way to help,” said Pruett, who had given blood about a half dozen times before Friday.
DiDomenico has given blood about 10 times, and the chance to help after three days of being “cooped up” by the storm was snapped up without a second thought.
Even though both received free movie tickets at Regal Cinemas for stopping at the blood drive mobile unit parked at Manchester Cinemas in Rock Hill – anyone who donated Friday got a free ticket – these students didn’t give so they could watch “The LEGO Movie” for nothing.
“It’s just the right thing to do,” DiDomenico said.
Blood supplies throughout the region are at unprecedented lows because blood drives set for the past several days were canceled because of winter storm Pax, said Tammy Wells, a developer who organizes drives for Community Blood Center of the Carolinas, which provides blood to 22 regional hospitals.
In one case this week, the blood center was informed of a newborn baby at Carolinas Medical Center who needs a significant amount of O-negative blood for an essential procedure.
Jennifer Davis, out to lunch Friday, left her food and rushed to give blood after reading about the emergency drive on The Herald’s website.
“I am O-negative blood type, and I wanted to help any way I can,” Davis said.
The Community Blood Centers mobile unit was quickly staffed Friday with willing medical personnel unafraid of roads not yet dry from the storm. The mobile center, which looks like a recreational vehicle, wasn’t parked in Rock Hill for more than five minutes before three people pounded on the door and asked to donate.
“This really is a Valentine’s Day gift that could be the gift of life for others,” Wells said.
Darrell Canty, 22, also a college student who works full time, took his lunch break from Target and made his way across a busy Dave Lyle Boulevard to give blood. Ben Glynn, 27, a longtime blood donor, heard about the need through a mass email sent out by blood center workers and dropped his plans, too.
“When the need is critical,” Glynn said, “that’s when people have to step up and donate.”