Braving the needle because there’s a need |

Braving the needle because there’s a need

John Colson
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

A special club that revolves around blood might seem a bit gruesome, especially to those who tend toward squeamishness about such things.

But before images of vampires and bloody teeth spring to mind, it is worth noting that the Gallon Club is a source of pride for those who are in it, because it provides, literally, the life’s blood for emergencies at local hospitals.

Kathie Burson, a retired Aspen High School teacher, is one of them.

“I didn’t even know there was a Gallon Club,” Burson said this week. “I just started giving blood every year” back in the early 1990s.

Burson, like many others in the area, has been giving blood for years in the regular blood drives sponsored by St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction in cooperation with Aspen Valley Hospital and other local institutions. The next blood drive is Tuesday.

“I’m up to three gallons so far,” Burson said proudly, noting that friends, including Aspen High School athletic director Carol Sams and Sams’ mother, have given even more.

One joins the Gallon Club, Burson said, after giving a total of a gallon of blood ” at a rate of one pint per drive.

After that, she says, “Every time you give a gallon, they give you this heart pin with a number inside it that tells you how many gallons you’ve given.”

Burson, who taught French at Aspen High for 25 years before retiring, also was the coordinator for the school’s International Baccalaureate advanced studies program for the last two years of her tenure. She worked with students in the program on their Creativity, Action and Service projects.

One project in 2002 involved getting students to give blood at local blood drives, and donating blood has gathered momentum since. Now students and teachers compete to see which clubs and individuals give more blood each year, and as many as 70 people from Aspen High give blood at each drive. It has become a part of the students’ perception of their social responsibilities, Burson said.

Burson says she has never been squeamish about giving blood and has never worried about contracting diseases from it, a possibility health officials confirm is extremely low.

“I’ve never worried … never been afraid of needles,” she noted, adding that in her experience the blood drive workers are highly skilled.

“They’re very good at what they do,” she said, and she hardly even realizes it when a needle is inserted and the blood starts flowing.

Aspen Valley Hospital’s next community blood drive will be from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Pitkin County Senior Center. The senior center is next to the hospital, at 0275 Castle Creek Road.

For more information, call the Donor Center at St. Mary’s Hospital at (970) 244-2555.

John Colson’s e-mail address is