January is National Blood Donor Month, and advocates in Billings are calling for a boost in donations.
"You know, us in healthcare, those of you in the news, you know how fast lives can change. And when those events happen, those tragedies happen, we have to be there to step up and say, we made a difference," St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation Executive Director Ty Elkin said Thursday.
One high school student, Dax Wilson of Bilings Senior, is doing just that.
"I’m in the platinum program, which involves taking all of the advanced courses offered, and it also involves a senior project," Wilson, a junior, said.
Wilson has focused his platinum project on bringing to light the need and many uses of donated blood products.
"We have excellent health care, here in Billings, Montana, at all of our hospitals," Elkin said. "But if we don’t equip those physicians and clinicians with one of the most important elements of health care, and that would be blood, we’re doing a disservice to them, and our community. So now we have to say, how do we fix the problem?"
A problem that Wilson is passionate about. His mother developed a rare and serious blood condition known as TPP while giving birth to him.
"It’s a mouthful. And my own body was attacking my platelets and my red blood cells, and it caused organ failure, and my kidneys shut down, I ended up being intubated in the ICU," his mother, Cassidy Brophy, said. "I myself used over 700 blood products over the course of a month."
"Well, Dax has unique circumstances. He came into this world, his mother was in a crisis. He has the opportunity to look back now and say, “How did that affect me, and why am I here?”. This is his opportunity to pay it forward," Elkin said.
Wilson has planned for three blood drives held as a competition among the three Billings public high schools.
"It’s an honor that he has chosen this for his project. Just thinking about the fact that I may not have been here to watch him grow up, watch him turn into the incredible young man he’s becoming," Brophy said.
"One hour of giving blood, one pint of blood can solve three lives. So when we think about hey, what it my superpower? If my superpower can be that I lean in and give one pint of blood and save three lives, I can live with that," Elkin said, "And that’s something that all of us can do."
The drives will be held:
West High School, Monday March 2
Skyview High School; Tuesday March 10,
Billings Senior High, Wednesday April 1.
Community members can also donate at Vitalant, and pledge support for any of the schools.