Quick and quiet breaths come one after another as the phlebotomist says to stay calm and relax. She takes a light blue tourniquet and places it up above the crook of an elbow. “Breath,” she says, taking note of the blue vein as it begins to swell. Then there is a slight pinch, and a quick prick of pain as the needle hits home. Eight minutes later a bag of blood and plasma sit separated on a sterile white table.
This is the process of a simple blood donation. A process each of the Bronc baseball players went through in honor of Nolan Naranjo and Jiada Grace Ortiz, Jan. 30 at the UTPA Wellness and Recreational Sports Complex.
The drive was held by United Blood Services and is not solely for Ortiz and Naranjo, but the two have been sponsored by the team in the past with not only two previous blood drives but a bone marrow drive as well.
Both children are from the Rio Grande Valley were diagnosed with a type of rare bone marrow disease known as Aplastic Anemia. The illness affects the bone marrow the patient; this causes them to stop producing enough red blood cells and white blood platelets.
UTPA Assistant Coach Norberto Lopez explained that the blood drive was in honor of the children and marked another chance for the team, as a whole, to give back.
“We have been able to help a couple of kids in the past,” Lopez said. “They had some real rare blood disease…(Head Coach Manny Mantrana) wants to teach the guys, he wants to make sure that we teach them that it isn’t just about us and our lives. (It’s about) going every day and making sure that we are giving back and helping out.”
This event is by no means the first or last of its kind. This is the third year in a row that the Broncs have hosted the drive.
Recently, the baseball players paired with members of the women’s basketball team to host a bone marrow drive in November. The bone drive held Nov. 13 was to sponsor Naranjo, who was diagnosed with Pre-leukemia and was in need of a transplant.
Andy Fortuna, a Bronc outfielder, was present and donated at the January drive. He feels that he and the team should hold themselves to a standard where the community is also a priority.
“This is to set an example to the rest of the community,” the senior physical therapy major said. “If they see a group of guys in jerseys donating blood they will come around. Being a part of the University everyone looks at us in a certain way, we always try to set an example to everybody else.”
According to Fortuna this is a belief that the coaching staff has instilled in these players and has made the team what it is.
His coaches agree.
”We have been doing this for four years,” Lopez said. “And we might have a special group, cause they never complain. I’ve seen guys that are scared of needles and they are freaking out, they are almost turning white, but they still want to do it. And I think that is a testament to Coach Mantrana; he really preaches to them and tells them about giving back.”
Whether it is the ideals instilled in them by their coaching staff or peer pressure that keep them donating, the end, even first-timers see the value.
Jesus Garcia, a shortstop for the team, said sometimes it’s the little things that matter, and taking time out of their days to donate is a small price to pay.
”This was my first time,” Garcia said. “And you really don’t feel much. It did not bother me at all, it was for a good cause. We are doing a small part for something big and this is what we are doing, each of us, It will contribute little by little to something big.”