Most 15-year-olds can’t wait to get their driver’s license.
Jackson Guyre can’t wait to give blood.
Guyre, a Woodland Heights resident and sophomore at St. Thomas High School, will turn 16 on Sept. 9. He’s already signed up to donate blood on Sept. 22 at the Historic Heights Fire Station, which has been hosting weekly blood donation events throughout the summer.
Taking part is important for Guyre, who has twice been a recipient of donated blood. He was born with a congenital heart defect and needed blood during two open-heart surgeries, at 8 months old and again at age 14.
“I think it’ll be pretty cool, especially because I’ve received blood before and I know how much it means,” he said. “Some people do it, but they don’t really know the impact it has on people. They do it because they know it’s a good thing, but they don’t realize how good a thing it actually is.”
Guyre’s mother, Emily Guyre, is the executive director of the Houston Heights Association (HHA), which initially agreed to host one donation event in May but has since become a hub of sorts for the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center. The HHA was scheduled to host its 14th donation event of the year on Thursday and has five more scheduled for September and four slated for October.
Blood center spokesperson Cameron Palmer, whose organization provides blood to 140 hospitals in 26 counties in the region, said the HHA has helped fill an important need during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the blood center typically gets about two-thirds of its donations from drives at schools, but they’ve all been closed for most of the last five months.
And while Palmer said the need for blood declined during the early stages of the pandemic, when many Houston-area residents were at home and elective surgeries were suspended, the demand has returned to normal levels as of late. He said more people are having operations, receiving treatments for medical conditions and sustaining traumatic injuries while out and about on the roads.
“The need for blood is always going to be there,” Palmer said. “It doesn’t matter if we have this super hurricane coming in or COVID-19. We need about 800-1,000 units of blood every day to meet the demand for our community.”
Palmer said the HHA has gone “above and beyond” in its role as an organizer of donation events. Its first 13 events from May through mid-August yielded a total of 524 donations, which Palmer said equates to saving 1,572 lives because each pint of donated blood can be used mined for plasma, platelets and red blood cells.
Palmer also marveled at the consistently high participation level at the blood donation events hosted by the HHA, which has a total of 54 time slots at each event. Emily Guyre said every time slot was utilized during each of the first 12 events.
Because donors typically have to wait at least eight weeks before giving blood again, Palmer said that means the HHA has been able to draw in new donors for most of its events.
“It is just incredible that they’re able to constantly bring in people to donate,” he said. “It’s just amazing.”
Guyre said she’s grateful to Heights-area residents for the making the ongoing blood drive such as success. It wasn’t something she necessarily envisioned when the HHA volunteered to host the first donation event on May 12, because it was looking for a way to engage the community and utilize the fire station, located at 107 W. 12th St., during a time when no other events were being held there because of the pandemic.
Because the donation slots filled up so fast on May 12, Guyre said the HHA decided to hold another event the next day and a third on May 28. Its next events were June 25-26, after which Guyre said the blood center asked if the HHA could start hosting them weekly.
So they were held weekly during July and August, and the arrangement is continuing through September and October. Next month’s events are scheduled for Sept. 3, Sept. 8, Sept. 17, Sept. 22 and Sept. 29, with online registration available at the preceding links.
Guyre said donation events come with no cost to the HHA beyond keeping the electricity running and the air conditioner cranked up at the fire station, where masks are required and there is adequate space between donation stations, and the blood center gives the HHA a $20 gift card to Target for each event it hosts.
There also are incentives for the donors, who can receive a free COVID-19 antibody test with each donation. The blood center also has had monthly promotions, offering items such as beach towels, Blue Bell ice cream and socks for child cancer awareness.
While they last, donors also will receive a coupon for a free appetizer at Kin Dee Thai Cuisine, a new restaurant at 1533 N. Shepherd Dr. Suite 160.
“It’s been amazing. I didn’t expect it,” Guyre said of the community response. “We have just been full steam ahead all summer long. It’s so gratifying. The Houston Heights Association just loves being able to invite people in and give back to the City of Houston.”
Giving blood is especially meaningful to the Guyre family. Jackson received the blood he needed from his parents, Emily and Jason, who have continued to donate blood so other families can benefit.
Jackson will join them next month and said he is counting down the days.
“I just know that a lot of people need blood,” he said. “They either have a disease where they can’t make their own or they have a surgery where they lose a lot of blood and need people to donate blood to keep them alive. Life is precious.”