- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 4, 2003

At some point during a conversation that covers everything from the start of the school year to the big blackout of Aug. 14, Deanna Butler sticks a needle into the gray-haired man’s antecubital vein, and blood begins running from his right arm down a tube into a plastic bag.

Blood is all in a day’s work for Mrs. Butler, a Red Cross phlebotomist.

Mrs. Butler and her colleagues collect a pint of blood from each of the 30 to 40 donors who appear daily at the Red Cross center that opened in April at 2025 E St. NW in the District.

“It’s a good thing that people do here and I’m glad to be part of it,” says Mrs. Butler, 29, a Suitland resident and mother of an eighth-grade girl.

From the Red Cross donor center, the blood is shipped to a laboratory in Baltimore for testing, then to hospitals where it will be pumped into the veins of seriously injured accident victims, leukemia patients or others whose lives depend on the blood of volunteers.

Mrs. Butler has worked at the Red Cross for seven years. Her experience helped her rise to a middle-management position in which she trains other phlebotomists and checks their paperwork before sending it with the blood collections to Baltimore.

Unlike many health care workers, “I work around healthy people,” Mrs. Butler says. “It takes a toll on you when you see people laying up in the hospital, sick and in pain. That’s why I chose to come work here.”

Her worst emergencies have involved donors who faint while giving blood, which occurs about once a month. The Red Cross phlebotomists cool them down with wet towels until they revive minutes later.

One of Mrs. Butler’s most memorable moments occurred on September 11, 2001.

“That’s one I’ll never forget,” she says.

Her father was working at the Pentagon, where he had a contract to lay carpet. After checking to make sure he was not injured during the terrorist attack, she arrived at the donor center to find a line of more than 200 volunteers waiting to give blood.

“We stayed there until one o’clock in the morning,” she recalls. “I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

Normally, her days are much more routine. She arrives at work around noon, checks the equipment and puts labels on the plastic blood collection bags.

She does several blood collections herself but also checks the paperwork of the half-dozen other phlebotomists at the downtown donor center. She returns home between 8 and 8:30 p.m.

During a blood collection, she greets the donors and reviews the health history information they filled out on a form. After scrubbing the midarm vein area, she injects the needle. She tells donors to squeeze their hands into a fist every few seconds to speed the flow of blood.

For the next approximately seven minutes, she watches over them and often chats about anything that comes to mind for the donors.

All of them explain their donations with charitable motivations.

“I try to do five good things a day,” says William McGreevey, a consultant on reproductive health in underdeveloped countries. “This is one of them.”

Aaron Hopkins, a computer engineer, says, “It’s a good thing to do. I’ve known people who have had to get blood.”

The nation’s blood supply depends on volunteers who make up less than 5 percent of the population. Most of them are regular donors who must be in good health before they can volunteer.

In recent weeks, the Red Cross has been dealing with a blood supply that its Web site describes as “alarmingly low.”

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