AYER — When Melissa Gamez’s grandfather had to have his leg amputated in El Salvador back in 2008, he had to pay a donor to receive five pints of blood to proceed with the amputation.
Unhappy knowing that her grandfather was in pain and had to pay for crucial blood, Gamez felt it was unfair he could not receive treatment in a pleasant and reasonably accessible manner.
“I don’t think that should happen to a patient, especially when they’re in danger,” said Gamez, a senior at Ayer Shirley Regional High School. “I think blood should be available and I don’t want that to happen to anyone else.”
Gamez began thinking of ways she could alleviate the blood receiving process. In the summer of 2015, she participated in a community service learning project, which led her to host her first blood drive with the American Red Cross. Enjoying her work, she decided she wanted to continue hosting drives, and had the idea to put one on at her high school.
“I presented the idea to the school nurse and vice principal and they were very open to the idea of the drive,” said Gamez.
After the idea was approved, Gamez got in contact with the American Red Cross to execute the drive. With the help of her peers and Suzanne Singer, American Red Cross interim district manager of Eastern Massachusetts, the blood drive was put on Nov. 8.
On the day of the event, Red Cross staff members drew blood while Gamez checked in donors.
“We had 48 sign-ups and we only had 55 spots available, so it was very successful,” said Gamez.
Gamez’s blood drive was the first one the school has seen since the new renovations. The blood drive collected 27 pints of blood, all of which was donated to the Nashoba Valley Medical Center.
“Melissa is a very independent person who learns on her own,” said Singer. “She is an amazing student.”
Gamez plans on hosting another blood drive at the high school this upcoming spring. After graduation, she plans to study biology and medicine.