Giving is in their blood

October 29, 2013 at 6:01 pm

By Dayna Kerecman Myers

Usually, Stanford Blood Center (SBC) can count on the NASA Ames Research Center to host blood drives five times per year. This year, thanks to the government shutdown that furloughed 1,000 Ames employees, there will only be four. A blood drive scheduled for Oct. 2 at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., was canceled because of the government’s failure to agree on a spending bill.

NASA's Ames Visitor Center in Mountain View - Open to the public and free to visit (Photo by Oleg Alexandrov)

NASA’s Ames Visitor Center in Mountain View – Open to the public and free of charge! (Photo by Oleg Alexandrov)

That translates to a loss of about 75 units of blood, based on the blood drive coordinator’s estimate. As each unit of blood has the potential to help save up to three lives, that’s 225 lives potentially impacted from the loss of that one blood drive. Furthermore, SBC was experiencing a shortage of O-negative blood at the time of the shutdown, and the shutdown affected SBC’s ability to meet that demand.

At least three donors, however, were not about to let the shutdown stop them from donating. It must be in their blood.

Doris, Emily and Mary Chow, three Bay Area sisters, have been donating for SBC for years. As NASA Ames Research Center employees, Doris and Mary got their start at their blood drives, and later encouraged their sister Emily to get involved. (Emily worked for Stanford; she started off in the School of Medicine Dean’s office and then later moved over to Faculty Affairs, Provost’s Office.) In all, Mary has donated whole blood 50 times, Doris 37 times, and Emily 14 times — almost always at NASA, but sometimes at our centers.

SBC Account Manager Clayton Toller said, “The Chow sisters are amazing. Two are retired but still come in 4-5 times per year to donate on the NASA drives.” Faced with the cancelation of the October 2 drive, he continued, “They actually all signed up to donate on another drive near their house during the week of the shutdown instead of missing their regular donation.”

The Chow sisters got in the habit a long time ago, responding to the first blood drives at the NASA Ames Research Center (hosted by a different blood center at the time). Eventually, Stanford Blood Center took over these drives full time. For 27 years now, the NASA Ames Research Center employees have been tremendous supporters of the Blood Center — and the Chow sisters have been particularly dedicated. They started off donating simply because someone asked them to, and, Doris said, “I thought, why not!” Doris then got her two sisters involved.

In retirement, they’ve continued to make donating a good excuse to get together. Doris said, “After retiring, I just kept going to the center to donate. Then, Emily retired. Now we both go to donate together. Sometimes, we see old friends and donate, and then have lunch with Mary.  Sometimes when we miss a center donation, we try to find one close to home and head on over so we don’t miss out on the Four Seasons T-shirts.” (SBC donors who donate at least four times in a year get a specially designed t-shirt every year as a thank you.)

The Chow sisters are not the only devoted Ames Center blood donors; in 2012, Ames Center donors contributed 379 units of blood products for local patients. The Ames Center also won top honors in the SBC 2010 Donor Cup competition, featuring a competition among local tech companies.

The October 2 NASA drive could not be rescheduled, but their next drive is scheduled for Thursday, December 12. Toller is hoping for a big turnout after the loss of the October drive … and we have a feeling the Ames Center employees will not disappoint.

Learn more about the effects of the shutdown on SBC at: