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After student faints giving blood, policies get review

The boy, 17, is okay after being taken to the hospital, but his father urges the School Board to look at parental notice.

By TOM MARSHALL
Published April 18, 2007


BROOKSVILLE - On April 11, 17-year-old Elliott Nazar collapsed at Hernando High School after donating blood.

That, in itself, wasn't particularly unusual; people sometimes feel faint after giving blood. Elliott's blood pressure was so low that he was rushed to a hospital emergency room, but he suffered no long-term injury.

His parents, however, say they had no idea their son would be giving blood at school that day. And given his weight and health history, they would never have given their permission had they known.

"They never notified me," said his father, Paul Nazar.

Officials from Hernando High and LifeSouth Community Blood Centers, which ran the collection drive at Hernando High, could not be reached for comment.

Under Florida law, 17-year-olds can give blood unless parents "specifically object, in writing, to the donation or penetration of the skin."

But Nazar said he had no opportunity to object, having never received notice of the blood drive.

The Hernando County School Board has no policy requiring parental notification, but the School Procedures manual refers to blood drives held twice a year with the Hernando County Blood Bank.

"Under Florida statute a 17-year-old may donate blood without written consent of the parents/guardians(s)," the manual reads. "However, the parent(s)/guardian(s) may choose to request in writing that the student not donate. Such a request will be honored."

That reference in the manual, which is available online or in district offices, but not mailed to parents, might not be enough notification to make parents aware of their right to object, said School Board member Jim Malcolm.

"It would seem to me that there would have to be proper notification, 'We're having a blood drive,' " Malcolm said. "We don't have to notify, but it's a good idea."

Superintendent Wendy Tellone said she wasn't sure how high schools notify parents of blood drives and their right to opt out, and would have to research the question.

Nazar's first notice that his son was giving blood came on the morning of April 11, when he received a call from Hernando High's School Resource Officer saying that Elliott "was in bad shape."

At the school, Nazar found his son conscious but very pale and disoriented. Angry that an ambulance hadn't been summoned, he promptly drove his son to the hospital.

"His blood pressure was so low," Nazar said, "he was out in my arms, barely coherent."

Emergency room staff measured his blood pressure and gave him fluids, and Elliott's blood pressure quickly rose, Nazar said. But he worried about the possibility of more serious health problems.

"He has just turned 17 and weighs 104 pounds, the minimum weight is 110, and furthermore he suffers from asthma and has a history of severe reaction to medical procedures, a fact which is part of his permanent medical records which are documented," Nazar said in an e-mail. "Those two factors alone should have disqualified my son as a donor."

The Hernando procedures handbook also mentions the "extremely rare" possibility of serious side effects.

"As the risk to the student is negligible and the benefits to the community are great, this opportunity is being provided for your seventeen-year-old to give blood to the Hernando County Blood Bank," the manual said.

Nazar said he planned to discuss the situation Tuesday night at the School Board's regular meeting, and would seek a legal injunction if it failed to properly notify parents of blood drives.

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.