30-gallon blood donor says YOU can save a life

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

Marie Lecurgo doesn’t remember the first time she donated blood, which is understandable, because she started more than 40 years ago.

But she knows why she’s still donating blood: “The feeling that you’re helping so many people, it’s overwhelming.”

Marie chokes up as she thinks of how many people have benefitted from the 30 gallons she has given. That’s 240 pints, each of which can be separated into three critical components. So that’s as many as 720 recipients: accident victims, surgery patients, people undergoing treatment for everything from cancer to sickle cell disease.

Marie Lecurgo (center), with Red Cross staff, shows off her badge of honor after a recent donation at UAW Local 12 in Toledo

The 71-year-old Toledo resident, a not-yet-retired licensed practical nurse, is out front with her support for the American Red Cross. “I feel like a walking billboard for the Red Cross. I wear all their free T-shirts,” she says with a chuckle.

But she turns serious when she thinks about people who shy away from rolling up their sleeves, citing a fear of needles. Get over it!” she says firmly. There may be a time when you or someone you love needs blood.” She’d love to inspire a hundred more people to follow her selfless example.

“There may be a time when you or someone you love needs blood.”

Marie Lecurgo

In fact, Red Cross is seeing the worst post-summer shortage of blood and platelets in at least six years.

The blood inventory typically rebounds after summer shortages. But this fall, a surge in COVID-19 cases because of the Delta variant has contributed to the lowest donor turnout of the year. To meet hospital and patient needs, the Red Cross needs to collect 10,000 additional blood products each week this month.

With less than a day’s supply of certain blood types on hand in recent weeks, the Red Cross urges donors of all blood types — especially type O — to make an appointment to give blood or platelets.

Marie made an appointment to donate whole blood again last week and now she’s thinking about giving platelets too. Donors can give platelets every seven days because the process extracts just the platelets, returning the rest of the blood back to the donor, so there’s less recovery time.

To sign up for a blood drive or donation center near you, use the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Every Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows strict standards of safety and infection control, and  additional precautions  — including face masks for all donors and staff, regardless of vaccination status — are in place to protect everyone’s health. Donors are encouraged to schedule an appointment before arriving at a drive. 

Donors can save up to 15 minutes at their blood drive by using a RapidPass®. With RapidPass®, donors complete the pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of donation, from a mobile device or computer. To complete a RapidPass®, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Red Cross Blood Donor App.

To donate blood, bring a blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification to check in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also must meet certain height and weight requirements.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Red Cross, HOLA Ohio, and Painesville Fire Department partner for fire safety 

October 2021 Home Fire Campaign kicks off in Painesville and Perry Twp.

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer 

A team comprised of Spanish-language interpreters from HOLA Ohio joined members of the Painesville Fire Department and staff and volunteers from the American Red Cross Northern Ohio region  on Saturday, October 9, to provide fire safety education and install 62 smoke alarms in 25 homes in Painesville and Perry, Ohio.  

This is part of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, the National Fire Protection Association’s Fire Prevention Week, and Hispanic Heritage Month

The Home Fire Campaign launched nationwide in October 2014 and has roots in Northern Ohio. In 1992, businessperson/philanthropist Sam Miller and other civic leaders partnered with the Red Cross and Cleveland Fire Department to find ways to reduce fire fatalities. 

The efforts have been effective. In the past seven years, the campaign has saved 1,048 lives, installed more than 2.2 million smoke alarms, made 948,535 homes safer, and reached 1,698,165 youth. Yet the efforts must continue. According to FEMA, Ohio has had 97 fire fatalities reported in the media so far this year, and on average, seven people die and 36 are injured in the US each day as a result of home fires.  

Tom Revolinsky, Disaster Program Manager of the Red Cross’s Northern Ohio Region said, “As part of Hispanic Heritage Month and Fire Prevention Week, the Red Cross, HOLA, and the Painesville Fire Department have five bilingual teams installing smoke alarms in 25 homes throughout the Painesville/ Perry Area. Fire safety education is the most important part of the installation event, as awareness helps prevent fires. Having bilingual volunteers ensure the message is properly communicated is key to making homes safer.”  

Tom added, “Smoke alarms are the second line of defense in a fire when prevention measures fail. Education, smoke alarms, and an escape plan are all components.” 

Veronica Isabel Dahlberg, Executive Director, HOLA Ohio, said, “We are so grateful for the opportunity to partner with the Painesville Fire Department, the Red Cross, and the volunteers for such an important cause that not only brings our community together, but will also save lives.” 

Chief Thomas C. Hummel Jr. said, “The Painesville City Fire Department is very happy that we are able to partner with the Red Cross and HOLA to provide smoke detectors in our community. We not only installed smoke detectors, we provided valuable fire safety education and offered answers to questions, thanks in a large part to our HOLA volunteers, who assisted with translation. We look forward to continuing this partnership. Any resident who needs a smoke detector installed can contact our office at 440-392-5848 or 5849 during normal business hours to schedule an installation time with our fire department.” 

Participants follow COVID-19 safety protocols. Smoke alarm installations are by appointment and participating Red Cross personnel must be vaccinated, wear masks, practice social distancing, and limit time in homes, among other precautions. Partner organization participants must also adhere to Red Cross guidelines. 

For more information on the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, fire safety tips, or to request a smoke alarm, please visit this site. A Spanish-language version is available here

Visit our photo album for more pictures from the smoke alarm installation event.

Red Cross faces emergency need as blood supplies drop to lowest post-summer levels since 2015  

This is serious: The national American Red Cross blood inventory is the lowest it has been at this time of year since 2015. Donors of all blood types – especially type O – and platelet donors are urged to make an appointment to give now and in the weeks ahead to overcome an emergency shortage. 

Blood donor turnout has reached the lowest levels of the year as many delayed giving amid a return to the workplace and in-person learning, as well as a recent surge in COVID-19 cases across the country due to the delta variant. As cases spiked in August, blood donor participation decreased about 10%, but blood product distributions to hospitals have remained strong, significantly outpacing blood donations in recent weeks. 

Patients, including those facing cancer, rely on the kindness of blood and platelet donors to help ensure they have the blood products they need for treatment. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, the Red Cross encourages eligible donors roll up a sleeve to provide hope and healing to cancer patients.

According to the National Cancer Institute, roughly 1.9 million people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. this year, and more than 281,000 of those individuals will have breast cancer. Patients with breast cancer and other cancers may need blood products on a regular basis during chemotherapy, surgery or treatment for complications. Platelet transfusions are often needed by patients to help prevent life-threatening bleeding. More than half of all platelets collected by the Red Cross are used by patients with cancer.

Here are 3 easy ways YOU can help restock the shelves:

  1. Make an appointment to give blood or platelets by downloading the free Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).  
  2. Let your friends and family know there is an emergency blood shortage.
  3. Invite someone to donate with you.

One act of kindness deserves another

All those who come to donate in October will receive a link by email to claim a free Zaxby’s Signature Sandwich reward or get a $5 e-gift card to a merchant of their choice. Terms and conditions apply; see rcblood.org/zax for details.

Blood drive safety 

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including face masks for donors and staff, regardless of vaccination status – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive. 

Don’t wait – make your appointment to donate.

City of Macedonia employee honored with Red Cross Lifesaving Award

Heroes are all around us. But they are not common because to act quickly and decisively during a crisis takes a level of courage reserved only for a chosen few. On September 30 the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio was honored to virtually recognize one man who exemplifies this kind of courage.

On June 5, 2021, during the Macedonia SummerFest 5K, John Doyle, Recreation Supervisor for the City of Macedonia, Ohio was doing a walk-thru clearing of trails at Longwood Park. A man who had passed him a minute prior was face down on the trail. John immediately radioed for EMS and approached the downed runner. He performed multiple rounds of CPR. During the third round, two police officers arrived to connect an AED. Shortly after, EMS arrived with another AED and LUCAS device. The man regained a pulse and was breathing when he was transported to the hospital.

For this act, John was awarded the American Red Cross Lifesaving Award. This is one of the highest awards given by the Red Cross to an individual or team of individuals who saves or sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in a Red Cross Training Services course. The certificate John received bears the signature of the President and CEO of the American Red Cross, and the signature of the chairman of the American Red Cross.

When asked to share his thoughts about his award, John was quick to point out, “It was a team effort and I’m thankful for all the people who helped save his life.”

The lifesaving awards program has its roots as far back as 1911, to provide recognition to those who, in a time of an emergency, use their lifesaving skills or knowledge to save or sustain a life. The Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders was created to accurately demonstrate true appreciation to those who use Red Cross skills and knowledge as part of their day-to-day job responsibilities. Since 2018, we have honored nearly 800 individuals worldwide who have helped to save almost 350 lives.

The Red Cross hopes that John’s heroic actions will inspire others to get trained in skills that help save lives. The Red Cross offers a variety of classes, including online options. Learn more and sign up today!

Earlier in 2021, a Richmond Heights police sergeant received a lifesaving award from the Red Cross. Read more about it here.

Do you know someone who used their Red Cross training to help save a life? Nominate your hero for a Lifesaving Award at www.lifesavingawards.org.

Red Cross offers home fire preparedness tips during National Fire Prevention Week

By Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer

Next week is National Fire Prevention Week and the American Red Cross wants to ensure everyone is prepared should they experience a home fire. So far in 2021, Ohio has had 95 home fire fatalities vs. 67 in 2020. 

We lost four on-duty firefighters in 2021 and the year is not over. These heroes were willing to give up their lives to help save lives of fellow Ohioans.  

Could your family escape in 2 minutes in case of a home fire?

A survey conducted for the Red Cross, shows that people mistakenly believe they have more time than they really do to escape a burning home. Fire experts agree that people may have as little as two minutes to escape before it’s too late to get out. But most Americans (62%) mistakenly believe they have at least five minutes to escape, more than twice the amount they have. Nearly 18% mistakenly believe they have ten minutes or more to get out. 

The American Red Cross urges everyone prepare by practicing their home fire escape plan and testing their smoke alarms.

1. Practice a 2-Minute Fire Drill 

Use our worksheet to draw your home’s floor plan and plot your escape routes. 

  • Practice your 2-minute drill (from home to a safe meeting place) at least twice a year.
  • Everyone in your household should know two ways to escape from each room in your home. 
  • In a real fire, remember to get out, stay out and call 911. Never go back inside for people, pets or things. 

2. Test Your Smoke Alarms Monthly

Test your smoke alarms monthly by pressing the test button. 

  • You should hear three beeps, letting you know the alarm is working. 
  • Don’t hear the beeps? Then it’s time to change the batteries if your model requires them.
  • If your smoke alarm is 10 years old, it’s time to get a new alarm because the sensor becomes less sensitive over time. 

Teach kids about preparedness

Our age-appropriate preparedness materials include engaging activities and easy action steps that youth will find both fun and effective.

Volunteer to help those affected by home fires

Join your local Red Cross to help families prepare for, respond to, and recover from home fire. The need for volunteers continues amidst a busy disaster season. Disaster action team members from the Red Cross Northern Ohio Region responded to nine local events over the weekend, all of them home fires. Several individuals were affected, including 30 adults and 7 children. The Red Cross provided more than $10,400 in immediate assistance.

Make a donation

Your financial gift allows the Red Cross to provide food, comfort and aid to those who have lost their home to fire. It also helps us install free smoke alarms and educate families on fire safety.

Be prepared before disaster strikes

Be prepared for disasters and other emergencies with a well-stocked emergency kit for your home, workplace and automobile. Choose from a variety of survival kits and emergency preparedness supplies to help you plan ahead for tornadoes, flooding, fire and other disasters.

Giving back this Good Neighbor Day

By Sam Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

National Good Neighbor Day is September 28, a day that celebrates our neighbors and encourages us to get to know our community better. Neighbors look out for one another and help each other out.

Good Neighbor Day was created in the 1970s in Lakeside, Montana, and President Jimmy Carter in 1978 proclaimed the day, saying: “Understanding, love and respect build cohesive families and communities. The same bonds cement our nation and the nations of the world. For most of us, this sense of community is nurtured and expressed in our neighborhoods where we give each other an opportunity to share and feel part of a larger family.”

Neighbors extend past the individuals who share a common wall or property line. At the American Red Cross, our communities are our neighbors. Whether they are next door or beyond, the Red Cross works to help and support individuals who are in need—after a disaster, when a blood donation is needed or preparing before the next disaster strikes.

This Good Neighbor Day, there are many ways you can give back to your Northern Ohio neighbors through the Red Cross.

  • Donate. There are different ways you can make a financial contribution to support the work of the Red Cross, both in your local community and around the world.
  • Give Blood. Donating blood is a simple thing you can do to help save lives. Blood donations help people going through cancer treatment, having surgery, who have chronic illnesses and those who experience traumatic injuries. The Red Cross holds blood drives across Northern Ohio every week. You can find and sign up for an upcoming blood drive here.
  • Volunteer. 90% of the Red Cross workforce are volunteers. There are a variety of volunteer opportunities available right here in our area. You can learn more and apply to be a volunteer in Northern Ohio here.
  • Learn a Lifesaving Skill. The Red Cross has been teaching emergency and safety training for more than a century. You can learn first aid, be trained in administering CPR or using an AED, to be prepared for when a need for these skills arises. You can review and sign up for a class here.

There are endless possibilities of ways you can be a good neighbor and help give back to the community. You never know how one small act of kindness can impact a neighbor near you.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

During Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, Red Cross reminds public of available mental health resources

By: Chris Chmura, Red Cross volunteer

As with mental health, our society has been improving with the taboo subject of suicide, but we still have a long way to go to help more people. The American Red Cross wants to remind everyone that there are resources available to assist those struggling with mental health concerns.

A sweeping new examination of suicide in Ohio in the past decade finds that 37 of the 88 counties now surpass the national rate, and the coronavirus pandemic likely is triggering a “staggering” increase in such deaths. Our Ohio neighbors of all ages from children to aging veterans are affected by suicide.

https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2020/07/06/suicide-ohio-death-gender-sex-race-county-ohio-university-mental-health/5364576002/

The Red Cross is committed to assisting the physical needs of those affected by disaster but we also understand these events can take an emotional toll.  The Red Cross has licensed Disaster Mental Health professionals who volunteer to assist people after disasters and connect them with resources to help in their long-term recovery. We currently have an urgent need for mental health disaster volunteers. If you are an RN, LPN, LVN, APRN, NP, EMT, paramedic, MD/DO or PA with a current and unencumbered license, please consider volunteering. Learn more and sign up today.

Aiding our men and women in uniform has always been integral to the Red Cross mission. One way we assist with the emotional issues military members face is through Reconnection Workshops. This free, confidential Red Cross program offers effective ways to work through challenges, improve wellbeing and build skills through small-group discussion and hands-on activities. Workshops help improve connections at home, at work and within communities. Members of the military, veterans and their families can also download the Hero Care App which can connect you to important resources that can help you through both emergency and nonemergency situations.

For emergency mental health care, you can also go directly to your local VA medical center 24/7, regardless of your discharge status or enrollment in other VA health care. The VA also has local Vet Centers in your community to help discuss how you feel with other veterans in these community-based counseling centers — some 70% of Vet Center staff are veterans. Call 1-877-927-8387 or find one near you.

If you are in crisis, get immediate help. Call 911. For additional help and resources, below are a variety of organizations trained to help.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major effect on our lives. Many of us are facing challenges that can be stressful, overwhelming and cause strong emotions. It’s important to learn how you and your loved ones can cope with stress. The information below has been adapted from resources published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress

  • Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories, including those on social media. Consider limiting news to just a couple times a day and disconnecting from phone, television and computer screens for a while.
  • Take care of your body.
    • Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
    • Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
    • Exercise regularly.
    • Get plenty of sleep.
    • Avoid excessive alcohol, tobacco and substance use.
    • Continue with routine preventive measures (such as vaccinations, cancer screenings, etc.) as recommended by your healthcare provider.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • Connect with your community or faith-based organizations. While social distancing measures are in place, try connecting online, through social media, or by phone or mail.

First day of Fall brings heavy rain, a good time to brush up on flood safety

Red Cross offers important tips to prepare for and stay safe in a flood

In case you couldn’t tell by the gray skies and falling temperatures, today is the first day of Fall! And, in typical Northeast Ohio fashion, Fall is kicking off with predictions of heavy rainfall and damaging winds over the next few days. While our area is often protected from some of the most severe natural disasters, such as hurricanes and wildfires, flooding is a disaster everyone should be aware of and prepare for. Many people don’t realize, floods are among the most frequent and costly natural disasters.

As with any emergency, being prepared before disaster strikes is the most important step.  Assemble an emergency preparedness kit, create a household evacuation plan that includes your pets, stay informed about your community’s risk and response plans and ensure your family members know how to get back in touch if you are separated during an emergency. We also recommend downloading the American Red Cross emergency app which lets you monitor more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts.

When it comes to flooding, it’s also important to make sure you have access to a NOAA radio broadcast. These are available online or through apps you can access in the Apple Store or Google Play. You can also purchase a battery-powered or hand-crank NOAA radio in the Red Cross Store. It’s also important to find out about the area you live in and how it can be affected by flooding, specifically related to flood insurance. If where you live is prone to flooding, there are also steps you can take to protect your physical home.

When flooding is predicted, it’s also important to understand the warnings that officials share. A flood/flash flood WATCH means a flood or flash flood is possible. A flood/flash flood WARNING means flooding or flash flooding is already occurring or will occur soon and you should take immediate precautions. Once flooding has begun, the Red Cross recommends the following steps to ensure you and your family stay safe.

  • Even a small amount of water is enough to sweep you off your feet or your vehicle off the road. If you come across a flooded area, turn around and go another way.
  • Identify at least two safe ways out of your neighborhood, should you need to evacuate. When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.
  • Return home only when officials have declared the area safe. Do not use water that could be contaminated to wash dishes, brush teeth, prepare food, wash hands, make ice or make baby formula.
  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.

When a flood occurs, the Red Cross is there to help with shelter, food and comfort. If you would like to help those affected by floods and other disasters, consider becoming a volunteer or making a financial donation.

Multiple weekend home fires keep Red Cross volunteers busy

Need for volunteers continues amidst busy disaster season

Disaster action team members from the American Red Cross Northern Ohio Region responded to nine local events over the weekend, all of them home fires. Several individuals were affected, including 30 adults and 7 children. The Red Cross provided more than $10,400 in immediate assistance.

Home fires continue to be the main disaster affecting people in our area. In Northern Ohio, the Red Cross responds to an average of 3 home fires every day. And, tragically, recent home fires in the area have resulted in fatalities. The need for home fire safety doesn’t end during a pandemic. We urge everyone to take steps to keep their household safe by installing and maintaining smoke alarms, talking with loved ones about fire safety and creating and practicing a home fire escape plan. Learn more and download resources now to help your family prepare.

The Red Cross also has a need for volunteers to assist families who have been affected by local disasters, often a home fire. From offering a caring and compassionate ear, to meeting the disaster-caused needs of individuals and households, such as lodging and clothing, and connecting them with long term recovery services, our volunteers ensure that families don’t have to face tough times alone. During the pandemic, for the safety of you and those impacted by disaster, you will mostly respond virtually to provide compassionate and immediate care and assistance to those impacted. On occasion, a larger response may require some on-scene presence and coordination with your Disaster Action Team. To sign up, visit RedCross.org/volunteer.

The Red Cross is responding to local disasters and continues to assist those affected by natural disasters across the country, including the western wildfires and Hurricane Ida. The Northern Ohio Region currently has 13 individuals from our area deployed across the country. We expect to see the need for volunteers to deploy to continue in the coming months, as hurricane season continues.

The Red Cross could not continue to fulfill its humanitarian mission without the generous support of the American public. If you are not able to volunteer at this time, consider making a financial donation to help us provide the necessary resources for those facing disaster. Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 gift. The Red Cross also has an ongoing need for blood and platelet donors. To schedule an appointment, visit RedCrossBlood.org.

Red Cross initiative aims to increase blood availability for patients with sickle cell disease

Blood transfusions from donors who are Black may provide best outcomes for patients

When patients living with sickle cell disease face a sickle cell crisis, blood transfusions can make a lifesaving difference. That’s why the American Red Cross has launched an initiative to grow the number of blood donors who are Black to help patients with sickle cell disease, an enduring and often invisible health disparity in the U.S.

Bridget C_Miller Harper_Photo

Over 100,000 people in the U.S. have sickle cell disease, the most common inherited blood disorder, and the majority of patients are of African descent. Despite the discovery of the disease more than a century ago, there have been fewer health resources available to help those currently suffering from sickle cell crisis in comparison to similar diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with sickle cell disease experience worse health outcomes than comparable diseases.

A closer blood match leads to better outcomes

Many patients with sickle cell disease will require regular blood transfusions to help manage their disease. Glinda Dames-Fincher, of Mayfield Heights, has lived with sickle cell disease for more than 60 years. She receives monthly red cell exchange transfusions as part of her treatment.

Unfortunately, these patients may develop an immune response against blood from donors that is not closely matched to their own. Many individuals who are Black have distinct markers on their red blood cells that make their donations ideal for helping patients with sickle cell disease. More than half of blood donors who are Black have blood that is free of C, E and K antigens – making them the best match for those with sickle cell disease.

Life-threatening complications

Sickle cell disease distorts soft, round blood cells and turns them hard and crescent-shaped, which can cause extreme pain. When hardened, the cells can get caught in blood vessels, potentially leading to stroke and organ failure.

“Transfusions provide healthy blood cells, unblocking blood vessels and delivering oxygen,” said Dr. James Westra, Red Cross regional medical director. “By increasing the amount of closely matched blood products, the Red Cross is able to help ensure the right blood product is available at the right time for patients facing a sickle cell crisis – minimizing complications for those with rare blood types fighting sickle cell disease.” makenzie-nance-002

Cleveland teenager Makenzie Nance was a preschooler when she received her first blood transfusion to help overcome complications from sickle cell disease. She visits local high schools to educate students about sickle cell disease and her family hosts blood drives to encourage more Black donors to give. You can read Makenzie’s story here.

The Red Cross asks members of the Black community to join in helping to address this health disparity and meet the needs of patients with sickle cell disease. Donors can take action today by scheduling a blood donation appointment at RedCrossBlood.org, by downloading the Blood Donor App or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS. To help tackle the need for blood in September – Sickle Cell Awareness Month − all donors who come to give with the Red Cross Sept. 13-30 will receive a limited-edition football-themed T-shirt, while supplies last.