By Valerie Baldowski
The Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS) saw a steady stream of visitors Wednesday, during its Fourth Annual NASCAR Foundation Blood Drive.
The raceway offered the use of one of its buildings for the event, and dozens of chairs were set up in the center of the room for donors to recline comfortably while giving a pint of blood. The event took place from 10 a.m., to 7 p.m.
American Red Cross employees were busily tending to donors, swabbing each arm carefully, inserting the needles, and instructing donors to remain still and squeeze gently on a small, rubber device. With each squeeze, blood flowed through tubes into plastic bags hung underneath the chairs.
Wayne Fielder, one of the donors, was relaxing at a table with juice and cookies, after completing his donation. Fielder, a veteran donor, is accustomed to the process. "I'm working on 20 gallons," the 68-year-old Rex resident said proudly.
A regular donor since age 18, Fielder's motivations for donating blood are different from the usual reasons. "I feel a lot better after I donate because when you donate, then your blood rejuvenates," he said. "It kind of makes me feel like an oil change in a car."
Additionally, Fielder said his donation is needed for others who are short of blood. "Every time you donate a pint of blood, you're saving three lives," he added. "I love to help people. I feel awesome knowing I'm helping three people."
Fielder likes the idea of knowing his donation is making a difference in the health or medical needs of strangers. "You never know who it's going to go to," he said. "It could be a child, an older person, or someone with cancer."
April Phillips, communications specialist for the American Red Cross, said the need is always present. "There is a constant need for blood," Phillips said. "We're hoping to collect 350 pints of blood here at the Atlanta Motor Speedway today. We're hoping to make a big impact."
The goal of collecting a certain number of pints varies, she said, depending on the sponsor group. The sponsor for the blood donations, she said, was AMS.
"Whenever we set up blood drives, we meet with the sponsor groups to find out what their capacity is," Phillips continued. Some drives, she said, collect as few as 35 pints.
There is also an ebb and flow to donations, added Phillips, depending on the time of year. "During the summer, and leading up through the end of September, typically, we see a reduction in blood supplies," she said. "We are coming off that critical time frame, [and] come Thanksgiving through mid-January, we're going to see another reduction in blood donations."
Two other donors at AMS Wednesday were McDonough residents, Patrick and Kathy Fronek. Patrick Fronek said he donated blood last year at the AMS. He is a regular donor, but said he had not given blood since then. The long absence, he said, was one reason he and his wife decided to donate this time.
Phillips said the blood collected from the AMS drive will be taken back to the American Red Cross blood processing center in Douglasville, processed, tested, and sent out for distribution to more than 120 area hospitals.