Recruiting is not an easy job, but an impressive slogan always helps.
Take the Navy’s, “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure,” or the Marines, who are always “Looking for a few good men.”
But here's one you might not have heard: “Saving lives one donor at a time.”
Markeisha Brooks knows it well. She's a blood donor recruiter for Our Lady of Lourdes in Lafayette with six months on the job.
And she faces an uphill battle every month.
While 95 percent of people are capable of giving blood, she says, only 5 percent do.
“It’s nothing I ever thought I’d do, and now I find myself thinking about it constantly,” said Brooks, 23, who earned her degree in public relations from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “We’re reaching out because people are in desperate need.”
Brooks was trained by 20-year veteran Beverly Meche, who knows the ins and outs of blood recruiting. Meche provides encouragement when a drive is disappointing.
“When they say 'no' a lot, she doesn’t let it discourage her," Brooks said. "I’ve learned it’s nothing personal.”
Donors aren’t paid by hospitals, but they usually get a free T-shirt or a coupon for a treat through a local company's largess. The process takes from 15 to 20 minutes for whole blood, and 30 to 90 minutes for red blood cells and platelets. Cookies, crackers or trail mix and juice are served.
Lourdes, the only hospital-based blood center in Acadiana, strives to keep a constant supply but doesn’t know what treatments are in the offing. Oncology uses the most, followed by trauma patients and surgery, Brooks said. Trauma peaks around holiday weekends.
Each month, Brooks gets a target number of units to be collected. June’s goal was 739 units.
Units are shipped for processing to Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge, which provides blood to more than 20 health care facilities across Louisiana. Officials at the Lake say 35,000 donations are needed each year, and 100 units are needed each day to meet the demand.
“If we don’t reach the goal, we have to buy it,” said Brooks, noting a unit can run anywhere from $15 to $50, depending on the components. Recently, she had to reach out on social media approval for much-needed O-positive and O-negative blood.
“You can’t manufacture blood; you can’t reproduce it," Brooks said. "People don’t understand the importance until they’re in need.”
Summer’s heat makes it hard to get donations, she said, because donors have to stay hydrated in cool temperatures. And, with vacations, fewer people are around to make donations.
“Lives are so busy. We could park our bus anywhere, and people would miss it,” she said. “And at the end of the day, some people would rather give money than blood.”
Schools are fertile ground.
“High schools are your biggest outcome,” Brooks said. “They’re normally a 10- to 11-hour day, but anywhere from 100 to 125 students sign up, and that’s one unit of blood per person. Teenagers love it.”
Donors must be 17. Sixteen-year-olds can donate with parental consent.
The worst location is outside a supermarket, Brooks said, because people are in get-in, get-out mode.
Individuals can donate as long as they’re feeling healthy and well. Pregnant women are excluded, and certain cancers and diseases will defer people permanently.
Businesses and large oilfield companies were once a lucrative source, but layoffs have forced Brooks to get creative. She uses Facebook and social media as recruiting tools.
There are other tactics, such as the blood drop suit, much like a Disney character, with eyes, a nose and a mouth.
“You look like a walking blood drop,” she says with a laugh. “It’s so cute.”
Raffle prizes have shown success, where a ticket is given to donors and a name pulled after the blood drive.
She also touts the health benefits — donors get a free, quick mini-physical.
And then there’s the altruism — the idea you’re part of something bigger than yourself, a larger cause for the good of mankind. It’s the same heroes-angle used by military recruiters.
“The blood will come,” Brooks said. “And you save a life — our biggest point. You’re giving people another chance.”