JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
Most kids dream about getting a car or having an elaborate party when they turn 16, but one local teen has a less traditional birthday wish.
Amber Miller asked her parents if she could have a blood drive for her “Sweet 16.” The sophomore at Health Careers High School has wanted to be a doctor since she was nine.
“I plan to be a neonatologist because I discovered I like taking care of children through babysitting,” Miller said.
The teen volunteered at Brooke Army Medical Center through the American Red Cross Summer Youth Volunteer Program last year and was hoping to do it again this year. Unfortunately, this year’s youth volunteer program was canceled due to the COVID-19 virus.
“When I volunteered at BAMC, I saw the blood drives they had there regularly,” she said. “I realized there is always a need and wanted to help. Blood has a shelf life of 42 days and cannot be stockpiled indefinitely, so there is always a need.”
Miller’s mother, Marcy Edwards, and stepfather retired Air Force Master Sgt. Jason Edwards were quick to step up to the plate and volunteer. The couple scheduled an appointment to donate to the Armed Services Blood Program at Akeroyd Blood Donor Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston and posted the challenge to their family and friends on social media.
The Akeroyd Blood Donor Center provides blood and blood products to BAMC as well as other military medical facilities throughout San Antonio.
“We’re very proud of Amber,” Marcy Edwards said. “She has talked about becoming a doctor since she was 9 years old and has never lost sight of her goal.”
Miller won’t be able to donate blood herself yet because donors must be at least 17 years old to donate blood through the Armed Services Blood Program; however, some states will allow 16-year-olds to donate blood with parental consent.
“I won’t be able to donate at Akeroyd on my birthday as originally planned, but it means the world to me that my parents are donating and trying to get others to donate as well,” Miller said.
Since the challenge was posted on social media, several of their friends and family members have agreed to donate as well.
“One friend even organized a blood drive for the 325th Operations Group at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and has participants in the 43rd Fighter Squadron and the 2nd Fighter Training Squadron,” Jason Edwards said. “They are also trying to spread the word to the other groups at the base.
“We have already had one donor in Ohio and are expecting several from Florida,” he added. “Hopefully, we can get a lot more from JBSA as well!”
The timing couldn’t be better, according to Mark Salcedo, ASBP blood donor recruiter.
“We have seen a sharp decrease in blood donation since the COVID-19 pandemic hit because we aren’t able to hold our regular blood drives,” he said.
According to the givingblood.org website, about one in seven people who are hospitalized need blood. Only 37 percent of our country's population is eligible to give blood, and less than 10 percent of those who can donate actually do so annually.
BAMC is the only Level I trauma center within the Department of Defense and one of two Level 1 trauma centers within San Antonio. Alongside University Health System, BAMC administers lifesaving care to more than 4,000 trauma patients each year, including 750 burn patients, from an area that stretches across 22 counties in Southwest Texas and encompasses 2.2 million people.
Blood is always needed to treat accident victims, cancer patients, hemophiliacs and surgery patients. On average, 40 or more units of blood may be needed for a single trauma victim and eight units of platelets may be required daily by leukemia patients undergoing treatment. A single pint of blood can sustain a premature infant’s life for two weeks.
The ASBP provides quality blood products for service members, veterans and their families in both peace and war. Since the ASBP’s inception over 60 years ago, more than 1.5 million units of blood have been provided to treat battlefield illnesses and injuries.
Army 1st Lt. Nicholas Vogt is proof of the importance of blood donation. Vogt received more than 500 units of donated blood after being injured by a roadside bomb while deployed to Afghanistan. To date, Vogt has received more blood than any other survivor in combat history.
While ASBP blood recipients are most often thought of as deployed service members injured in the line of duty, the ASBP also supports the peacetime needs of military personnel and their families. Blood must be available to military hospitals for scheduled and emergency procedures.
Additionally, the ASBP’s recipient base extends beyond the military community. In cases of natural disasters or other catastrophes, the ASBP is called upon to serve civilians in need, not only here at home but globally during humanitarian missions.
To donate blood to the ASBP, contact the Akeroyd Blood Donor Center to schedule an appointment or go online to www.militarydonor.com; enter the sponsor code: ABDC.
“I want to spread the word as far as possible and get people everywhere to donate,” Miller said.