|Professorís scare highlights need for blood donors|
|Monday, May 21, 2012|
Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood.
To fill that need, more than 38,000 blood donations are needed daily, according to the American Red Cross.
These stats weren’t on the mind of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor Michael Reiter a few years back when he was vaguely aware that each June, the University and the Red Cross host one of the country’s largest blood drives.
“I never really appreciated it or thought about it much,” he says now, looking back on the recent ordeal that almost cost him his life. Reiter hopes to donate at the next Carolina Blood Drive, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 5 in the Dean Smith Center, “provided my doctors say it’s OK for me to give.”
Volunteers and donors are sought for the 24th annual drive, and all may register at unc.edu/blood. Like Reiter, many folks don’t think about donating blood until the need for it hits close to home.
Lifting weights and practicing martial arts, Reiter at 44 was the last person anyone would suspect of courting a major health crisis. Healthy and happy, he is the Lawrence M. Slifkin Distinguished Professor of computer science at his alma mater, where he had been one of the elite Morehead Scholars (now Morehead-Cain) known for academic excellence, physical vigor and community service. He graduated in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematical sciences.
All continued to go well until last October, when, he thought he felt heart palpitations.
“They called me a few days later and said, ‘You have an aortic aneurism,’” Reiter said. “I was shocked. The doctor said it was unusual for this type of thing to happen at my age.”
The aneurism was in a risky location, at the root of his aorta. And one heart valve was stretching.
“They told me to stop doing everything,” Reiter said. “They said, ‘If it ruptures, you’re in big trouble.’ The way they decide whether to do the surgery is when the risk of the aneurism rupturing is greater than the risk of dying in the operation.”
The surgery was last Dec. 15. It would not have succeeded without plasma, one of the products of donated blood. Then followed a lengthy recovery in which Reiter could not ride in the front seat of a car, lest an impact and airbag re-crack his sternum.
Now back in the classroom and the weight room, Reiter has resumed some of his martial arts. Don’t be surprised if you see him in the Smith Center on June 5, converted from oblivious bystander to grateful recipient.
By the time of the drive, the Red Cross likely will still be trying to catch up after a high-pollen spring in which some regular donors didn’t feel well enough to give because of allergies. For more information on need, eligibility and donating, visit http://www.redcrossblood.org/.
Carolina Blood Drive website: www.unc.edu/blood
UNC contact: Katrina Coble, (919), 962-1801,