Carlsbad couple’s blood donation for Las Vegas victims hits close to home

The first time Ryan Manion donated blood, it was to get out of class in high school. When he donated for the second time in Encinitas on Oct. 25, it was for a more personal reason.

The blood drive, hosted by Sherri Babaie of Natural Elements Wellness Collective in Encinitas and the San Diego Blood Bank, aimed to support the victims of the Oct. 1 Las Vegas shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival that killed 58 people and injured 546 others. Manion and his wife narrowly missed the shooting, having left the festival grounds 20 minutes prior.

Ryan said the Carlsbad couple decided to leave after growing tired and hungry from being at the music festival for three days.

"Something made us leave. It was really weird. The other days we stayed the whole time," he said as he laid next to his wife on a bed, donating blood in the blood bank's bus parked on Second Street. "We had an Uber that came to pick us up, and we were on the freeway driving past the event when they shut the freeway down. It turned pitch black, our friend called us and asked us if we made it out alive."

The friend who called, Ryan said, was also at the festival but was able to escape uninjured.

Kelley Manion, Ryan's wife, said she and her husband felt lucky to be alive and that they had been searching for ways to help the victims. When the couple found out about the blood drive in Encinitas, at 545 Second Street, they said they felt compelled to donate.

It was Kelley's first time giving blood. For seven minutes, blood pumped out of her left arm into a medical bag. She donated from the same arm where her three-day wristband from the concert still sits.

"It's a lot hearing about it on the news or looking at photos from [the event]," she said. "It kind of gets to you a little bit. We had a lot of thinking 'Why us?' I was really excited when I saw something we could do to give back, because we were really lucky to have our lives."

Kelley said she and her husband also donated to a GoFundMe account to help victims of the shooting.

Babaie said she decided to host the blood drive because she wanted to help the people directly affected by the shooting. She said she had a few friends who attended the event but made it out alive and uninjured.

"When it happened, a few of my friends and I were talking about how when a tragedy happens, you normally just post something on social media saying you're praying," she said. "I think prayer is a really great thing, but we just wanted to take it a step further. We felt like this was a way to bring the community together and help in the face of tragedy."

By 11 a.m. Oct. 25, when the donations began, Babaie said she had 100 people confirmed to donate that day and the following day.

She said she reached out to the San Diego Blood Bank about four days after the Vegas shooting.

Jennifer Bradley, representative of the San Diego Blood Bank, said the blood bank has conducted five donation centers in North County since the Las Vegas shooting.

However, she stressed the importance of regular blood donations -- even when a tragedy has not recently occurred.

"We do 170 drives a month and we still have shortages," Bradley said. "What that says is if something traumatic happens, there generally is not the amount of blood needed on the shelves. The key is keeping the shelves stocked so when things happen, the blood is there and ready to go."

Blood does not become ready to use for 48 hours and expires after 42 days, she added.

Only 37 percent of people are eligible to donate blood, and of that 37 percent, only about five percent donate on a regular basis, Bradley said. People can donate up to eight times a year.

Interested donors should check http://www.sandiegobloodbank.org/donors/blood-donor-requirements to see if they are eligible to give blood.

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