Doctors performed open-heart surgery within four months of her birth. A second procedure took place at age 2. Her first of two pacemakers was implanted after turning 10.
Rachel Schreiner knows she is lucky to be alive.
Lifelong attention from medical professionals has allowed Rachel, a second-year criminal justice major in RIT’s College of Liberal Arts, to overcome a heart defect and pursue a relatively normal lifestyle. She played soccer in high school and now enjoys long walks outdoors.
But Rachel directs a lot of credit for her survival to family members. Her grandparents regularly served as blood donors in advance of her multiple operations.
“It apparently worked,” she says. “It kept me alive.”
That’s why, every chance she gets, Rachel gives blood. And she enjoys plenty of support in that effort. Her two older sisters, also RIT students, often join her in participating at campus blood drives. Alyssa is a fourth-year public policy major and Emily is working toward a graduate degree in secondary science education.
“They’re always there no matter what,” states Rachel. “Not a lot of brothers and sisters would be willing to do what they do—to be so committed to making sure other people have the same opportunities that I did.”
Alyssa first donated blood at age 17 during a high school blood drive in their family’s hometown of St. Louis. Knowing the role her grandparents played in helping Rachel inspires her to give, even though Alyssa admits having to overcome a fear of needles.
“Afterwards, the feeling that I did something beneficial makes me proud that I can donate blood,” she says. “Hopefully my actions will save people’s lives.”
It does, according to the American Red Cross. The agency states that each unit of blood it collects benefits three patients. As a result, the Schreiner sisters join a life-saving partnership between RIT and the Red Cross that extends back nearly 40 years. During that time, the agency estimates that campus blood drives helped save close to 100,000 patients.
RIT is recognized as a leader among academic institutions across the Northeast in supporting the Red Cross blood program. The agency recently presented RIT President Bill Destler with an award to commemorate its relationship with the university. Kay Schwartz, CEO of blood services for the New York-Penn Region, says RIT achieved a 104 percent increase in blood collection over the past five years.
“The Red Cross has a long and proud history of providing the safest possible blood and remains committed to serving our hospitals and community needs,” she says. “It is through the continued efforts of RIT and other dedicated blood drive sponsors that we can ensure an adequate blood supply.”
In fiscal year 2010, RIT hosted 23 blood drives that resulted in nearly 1,200 units collected. Numerous student groups and other departments on campus help by sponsoring the various events.
The Schreiners credit the professionalism and friendly nature of the Red Cross staff for enhancing the blood-giving experience. It also provides the sisters with opportunities to bond with each other—even creating competitions each time to see which one can fill her pint first.
“We sit on the lounges and just have conversations,” says Alyssa. “Normally it’s a fun experience.”
But they also see it as a responsibility. Rachel recalls the worry she felt when life-saving treatments were postponed due to a shortage of blood.
“I’ve seen what it did to my family. And if my donating can prevent another family from going through that, then my work is done.”
The American Red Cross is targeting 600 units of blood as part of a life-saving partnership between RIT and the University of Rochester. Both schools plan to collect at least 300 units each during the month of April. Show your Tiger spirit and help RIT rise to the challenge by participating at one of the following campus blood drives:
Appointments can be made at www.rit.givesblood.org.