Eighty-plus years of lifesaving blood collections-happy birthday Dr. Drew

Plus an opportunity this weekend to do your part

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Responsible for providing approximately 40% of the nation’s blood supply, the American Red Cross is always concerned with maintaining a wide variety of blood types as well as blood derivatives such as plasma and platelets. With constant demand, the Red Cross aims to provide a well-stocked, diverse blood donor bank at all times.

A pioneer in blood preservation

As World War II began in 1939, Dr. Charles Drew, an African American doctor was a General Education Board Fellow in surgery at Columbia University in New York City. There, he studied blood preservation, and developed techniques for preserving plasma, a crucial blood component often given to trauma patients and burn victims.

Dr. Drew’s Columbia dissertation had direct implications on the transportation and storage of blood during World War II. Dr. Drew’s dissertation included details for establishing the experimental blood bank at the Presbyterian Hospital. He described the processes of drawing blood, typing donors and identifying the indications for transfusion. He compiled both donor and recipient statistics as well as the types of adverse reactions to transfusion. Many of these processes are still in use today.

In 1940, the American Red Cross and its partners launched “Blood for Britain”. They planned to ship large quantities of plasma to England to help heal those wounded during the Blitz. “Blood for Britain” chose Dr. Drew to lead the project as its medical director.

In January 1941, Dr. Drew was named the first medical director of the American Red Cross Blood Services. He oversaw the first blood drives using bloodmobiles — refrigerated trucks serving as donation centers. The drives were a success, even though it was still quite uncommon for people to give blood for unknown recipients and without compensation. Bloodmobiles are still in use today by the Red Cross and other blood collection organizations for blood drives across the US.

Dr. Charles Drew was born on this date, June 3rd, in 1904.

Blood collection today

Four Red Cross blood donation centers operate year-round in Northern Ohio:

  • Warzel Donation Center; 3747 Euclid Avenue; Cleveland, 44115
  • Parma Donation Center; 5585 Pearl Road; Parma, 44129
  • Akron Donation Center; 501 West Market Street; Akron, 44303
  • Toledo Donation Center; 3510 Executive Parkway; Toledo, 43606

In addition, remote collection sites occur all during the year across Northern Ohio.  A list of sites can be found here. Merely type in your zip code and select the best time and date for your appointment. 

One of those blood donor events will be Saturday, June 5th, from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at University Circle United Methodist Church (a.k.a. the  Church at the Circle), 1919 East 107th Street, Cleveland, OH 44106. The Red Cross will be having their blood drive in the Great Hall (lower level – elevator accessible.) Donors will receive a $10 Amazon gift card by email and a free Red Cross T-shirt while supplies last. Go to RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS (800-733-2767) to check for available appointment times.

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