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Living proof

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Pam Giardiello pays it forward by giving blood

By Greg Summers

Editor’s note: Each Sunday this month, in celebration of March as American Red Cross Month, The Lancaster News is honoring local volunteers who are the cornerstone of what the agency does. From donating blood and helping military families to disaster relief and teaching CPR and first aid, 96 percent of the Red Cross work force is volunteers. Many of those who make a difference everyday are your neighbors. 

In 1989, Lancaster High School senior Pam Neely Giardiello started donating blood to the Red Cross at the urging of her mother, Kathy Sistare.

Now 20 years later, Giardiello is still at it.

“Mom was a nurse at Springs Memorial (Hospital) and saw how much it was needed,” Giardiello said. “It was the right thing to do and it still is.”

Donating blood comes natural to Giardiello, who is marketing and grants coordinator for the Diabetes Education Clinic at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster. The desire to give blood is literally in her blood. 

“My grandmother, Lillian Neely, died from ovarian cancer,” Giardiello said. “I think one of the most disappointing times in her life was the day they wouldn’t let her give blood any more because of her condition. It really bothered her.”

While Giardiello has never kept count how many times she has given blood, she had no idea she was paying it forward until last summer.

The concept of paying it forward involves doing a good deed that changes the world through a direct action that can’t be paid back.

She said it came full circle in July 2008 after a “simple surgical procedure got a little more complicated than we thought it would.”

Before leaving the operating room that day, Giardiello had been given 16 units of blood.

“You know, I’ve always wondered whenever you give blood if it ends up helping an accident victim or someone in surgery,” Giardiello said. “There’s no way of knowing, but what someone else did helped me when I needed help. You just never know when it’s going to come back around.

“I don’t think people really appreciate the Red Cross and what it does until you are on the receiving end of it,” she said. “I hope we never get to the point where we take the Red Cross for granted. We are very fortunate to have our own chapter right here.”

Giardiello said she hopes the young people will be encouraged to donate blood just like she was as a high school senior.

“They shouldn’t look at it as a needle in the arm,” she said. “It doesn’t hurt. They need to look at the outcome of what their action means to someone else.”

Giardiello said there is another way to look at giving blood. While many local charities have seen a decrease in donations in tough economic times, she said the only cost to giving blood is time.

Nearly half of the of the blood supply in the United States comes from Red Cross blood donors. Gina Amato, director of Lancaster’s Red Cross chapter, said 2,124 pints of blood were collected here in 2008.

“You can still give blood,” Giardiello said. “It doesn’t cost you anything and you never know when you may be the one who needs it.

“I’m living proof of that,” Giardiello said.