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Donors head to Navy Pier to do their part to build up blood supplies

About 100 people donated blood at the American Red Cross event Monday.

A Red Cross phlebotomist ties a woman’s arm with medical tape after she gave blood, at a Red Cross blood drive at Navy Pier, Monday, May 4, 2020. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times
The American Red Cross held a blood drive Monday at Navy Pier.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Some were glad for a glimpse of a choppy Lake Michigan and others happy for mask-to-mask human contact. But all were at Navy Pier on Monday donating blood because, in a small way, they wanted to help.

“I’m young and healthy, and I’m at the lowest risk,” said Natalia Ershova, 25, a University of Chicago graduate student, referring to the coronavirus’ relatively low impact on younger people without preexisting medical conditions. “Other people who are at much higher risk are coming out and doing it. So if anybody should be doing it, it should be me — or people like me.”

About 100 people donated during the blood drive, with several citing Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s call last month for healthy people to give blood. As a sign of the times, donors’ foreheads were scanned with an electronic thermometer, and they were asked to wait in chairs spaced 6 feet apart before giving blood.

When Pritzker made the request for donors, many blood drives were being canceled because of the statewide stay-at-home order. But Joy Squier, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois, said more blood drives are now being scheduled.

Squier said the state is “closer to hospital demand at the moment.”

“People need to come out and donate every day, yes, but I wouldn’t call it a shortage situation at the moment,” Squier said.

Around a dozen people give blood at a Red Cross blood drive at Navy Pier, Monday, May 4, 2020. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times
People had a view of Lake Michigan while donating blood Monday at an American Red Cross drive at Navy Pier.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Darby Dickerson, 56, who is dean of UIC John Marshall Law School, said she came out at the urging of a friend who’d mentioned the ongoing need for donated blood. Dickerson’s blood type is O negative, which can be used in transfusions for any blood type.

It was the first time Dickerson had donated blood.

“It was a very good experience,” said Dickerson, who lives in the South Loop. “And my experience with people drawing blood has been very poor. It usually takes two, three or four sticks. Someone actually blew through a vein one time.”

Dickerson, who said she has hardly left home since mid-March, said she was initially a bit anxious about mixing with others during the pandemic.

“But I figured if I’m going to leave my apartment, this was a good cause to come out for,” she said.

Christi Vanoye, 55, who lives in Streeterville, said she’d been feeling “really helpless” of late.

“I feel very strongly about donating blood,” Vanoye said. “There’s a huge need in hospitals. Anything I can do to help right now, I’m happy to do it.”

On this rare excursion outside that didn’t involve grocery shopping or exercise, she delighted in spotting geese nesting at the pier.

“It’s great to get out of the house,” she said.

The American Red Cross Logo can be seen in the center of the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel, Monday, May 4, 2020. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times
Navy Pier was the site of a blood drive Monday by the American Red Cross.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times