On July 8th, The Music Center hosted its very first Community Blood Drive in partnership with UCLA Health. But this drive wasn't just a coincidence. One of our longtime choristers, Terri Hill, helped make this event a possibility. When Terri's not singing on our stage, she's organizing blood drives around Los Angeles. We spoke with her about The Music Center drive and how her operatic world collided with her medical one.
So let's get started. Can you talk a bit about your background?
My degree is in vocal performance, so it’s safe to say I never thought I’d end up in the medical field. I was a blood donor in college. I found that [by giving blood] I could do something as a poor student that was worth more than anyone's money. My blood isn’t worth any more than a rich or famous person’s blood. It's the great equalizer. So, I kept donating for a while and then a friend of mine at Cal State Northridge, Tim Smith [a fellow LA Opera chorister], was working as an EMT at the time, and then he went on to work in the Providence hospital system in their blood and platelet center. The center had a job come up for a Recruitment Coordinator and he thought of me.
And the rest is history?
Sort of! I worked for Providence for about eight years until they decided to do away with our department. I was sought out after, by UCLA, which is who I work for now and am very happy there. They’re doing so much more than most blood and platelet centers. We've started a few convalescent COVID-19 classes and treatments now, which is an experimental treatment some doctors are using for people with severe cases of coronavirus. Doctors take plasma from people who have recovered from the virus and are known to have antibodies. The hope is that convalescent plasma can be given to people with harsher cases [of coronavirus] to help them fight it off.
Can you talk a bit more about your role at UCLA?
So a lot of people initially think I'm actual medical personnel, which I'm not. I'm what they call the Recruitment Coordinator. I'm basically your sales person. I'm the person who goes to an organization and says, "Hey, let's have a blood drive. How do I get in touch with the right person to make this happen?" I'm the one who coordinates it all. It's kind of like being a party planner. And I also do a lot of education about blood donation. I work with students a lot since about 75% of the blood we collect is actually from high school students.
Why did you want to host a blood drive at The Music Center?
Well, we're always seeking new venues for blood drives because, during times like these, all of our blood drives got canceled. All of the high schools had to cancel, office buildings had to cancel. So we really need to reach out to the community. I thought of how The Music Center has its own community that maybe we haven't reached before. We’re on the west side of town, so more people know about us there than they do downtown. So I'm really hoping make relationships with new donors, and so create a base [of donors] that I can invite again to the next blood drive and the next one. Did you know only 3% of Californians donate blood?
Wow, I didn’t know that.
Yup. Only 3% of Californians donate blood. And we’re the largest state in America. So if I can get some new donors at this drive that become lifelong donors, that's gold. That means that maybe we're raising that percentage a little bit. And if everyone donated once a year, there would be no shortage of blood.
Can you talk a little bit about what goes in to organizing a blood drive?
Well, for this one, I went to Rupert Hemmings and said, “Hey, why don't we do a blood drive here? And we can do a plasma drive at the same time.” And he thought it was a great idea and got me connected with the Music Center Events Coordinator and we scheduled one for July 8th.
So, was it really that easy?
Well, it all depends on the venue, whether it be a high school or whether it's a church or if it's a business. So we kind of have to evaluate. We have to kind of gauge how many people are going to support the drive. I have to get my crystal ball out and I have to say, “Oh, okay, we're going to collect 35 units of blood here.” And sometimes I'm right. Sometimes I’m not. It also depends on the enthuasim of the contact and if they’re willing to promote it. We try to plan ahead and get everything together about a month before we start recruiting signups for the drive. We always on the day of we'll accept walk-ins unless it's really crazy.
Now that the drive is over, How did it go?
It went great! For us it's not always about the numbers, but making sure the donors have a great experience and I know we achieved that. We had a great turnout and collected 49 units of blood and platelets. I was very pleased to see that most of the donors were from the downtown area and they expressed that they were happy to have a place to donate that was so convenient. Many of them walked from their homes. Most of the donors were new to us and I definitely plan on scheduling another drive at the Music Center and inviting these same donors back.
Do you have any tips for people who might be a little scared to donate blood?
It’s super important for donors to eat well beforehand. This isn’t like getting a blood test where your doctor wants you to fast. You should eat and hydrate really well because you’re less likely to have any issues that way. Most people are perfectly fine donating. It's just a little prick. I know it sounds really scary, but when you do it, you'll go, “Oh, that was no big deal.” You can also visit our website and you'll find a whole list of tips and things to consider. And on another note, you know, I went to music school, I always thought I’d be a singer, which I am. Um, but I never thought that something else would be as rewarding as I find this position [to be]. My little part in helping to save lives is extremely rewarding.
If you're interested in signing up for a future blood drive, click here.