Tom Riles’ granddaughter Barbara was just three days old when she had open-heart bypass surgery at a children’s hospital in Los Angeles. “They left her chest open for two days, and it was beyond surreal,” Riles says, “watching her little oversize heart beat donated blood."

For United Blood Services donor recruiter Riles, blood drives are personal.---

He says he wants to get 100 Santa Feans to participate in a drive he’s organizing at the Genoveva Chavez Center on Friday, March 28.

So far, he estimates, about ten have signed up. Riles says each person who donates about a pint of blood can help three sick or injured people, but that only 5 percent of eligible donors in New Mexico have ever given blood. He poo-poos those who decline out of fear of needles.

“With all due respect, I would just tell them to get over it,” he says. “Is you were slammed with a car while walking and ended up in the hospital, would you tell the doctors, 'Don’t give me blood?'”

The drive is from 10 am to 5 pm in Chavez’s Community Room, 3221 Rodeo Road, and people interested in donating can call Riles at (505) 206-3779 or  sign up online. A flyer sent to SFR also reminds aspiring donors to eat a good meal, drink plenty of water and bring a photo ID.

“I know everyone is busy,” Riles says, “but I hope people will be kind enough and compassionate enough to put an hour aside next Friday to give their neighbors more time to live with their loved ones.”

Like Barbara, as Riles says, “Thanks be to God, now she’s 4 years old in preschool. She’s all better.”

FYI: If you are a man who's ever had sex with another man (or a woman who has ever had sex with a man who's done so), have worked as a prostitute or gotten a tattoo recently, you are not eligible to donate.