World Health Day 2021 focuses on health equity, which Red Cross works to address

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

Today, April 7, is World Health Day, a day in which the World Health Organization (WHO) raises awareness of an important issue. This year’s theme is one the American Red Cross strives daily to address: health equity and “building a fairer, healthier world.”

This is an important issue for the Red Cross as humanity, impartiality and universality are among our fundamental principles. Each day in the Northern Ohio region, as everywhere, Red Cross volunteers and staff work to assist anyone in need of our lifesaving and emergency relief services. This commitment is conveyed in several personal perspectives on this webpage, including recent articles from Chris Chmura and Doug Bardwell.

As the WHO points out, the COVID-19 pandemic has more clearly shown how some have better access to health care and have healthier lives than others. In addition, the CDC states, “There is increasing evidence that some racial and ethnic minority groups are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19.” Ohio Department of Health COVID-19 demographics also indicate a disparity.

While many of us may feel limited in addressing the causes of health inequality, there are several ways we can have an impact. Assisting the Red Cross in its mission is among them, whether through volunteering, donating blood or providing financial support.

Volunteering with the Red Cross has helped me see the health inequality in our region, and I am honored to have taken part in helping those in need. If you are interested in volunteering, there are a variety of opportunities available in Northern Ohio, including in Disaster Response, Blood Services and Services to the Armed Forces.

Blood donations are critical. As this article states, the blood supply needs to be as diverse as our region. A diverse blood supply is necessary for treating diseases like sickle cell, which mostly affects those of African and Latino descent. As I reported last September, blood donations from African Americans are vital in treating sickle cell disease, as blood must be closely matched to reduce the risk of complications.

The Red Cross would not be able to provide so much assistance without the generous support of its donors. If you can provide financial support, any amount helps. 

Hopefully, we are approaching the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. But we cannot forget its difficult lessons. We must also continue to face other illnesses, health concerns and disasters. We need to work toward a better future with greater health equity. The Red Cross—with the support of its donors, volunteers and staff—will continue to honor its fundamental principles to assist all in need.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Help refuel the blood supply in April and be entered to win a trip to the 2022 Indianapolis 500®

Every single day in Northern Ohio, the American Red Cross needs to collect approximately 500 pints of blood to meet the needs of patients in more than 70 local hospitals. And, in the midst of a continuing pandemic, the need for blood donors continues to be essential. Right now, the Red Cross needs donors of all types, especially those with type O blood, to race to give blood or platelets and help refuel the blood supply.

During the month of April, the Red Cross is teaming up with INDYCAR® to urge people to help keep the blood supply on track by donating blood or platelets. Those who come to give April 1-15, 2021, will automatically be entered to win a VIP trip for four to the 2022 Indianapolis 500®. The Red Cross will also automatically enter all who come to give in April for a chance to win one of five $1,000 e-gift cards to a merchant of choice. Additional details are available at RedCrossBlood.org/Indy500.

The need for blood doesn’t take a pit stop

Every day – even during a pandemic – patients like Kristen Palocko rely on lifesaving blood products. In 2017, Palocko, a critical care nurse from Broadview Heights, was feeling extremely fatigued. After a trip to the ER, she found out she had a rare bleeding disorder called thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP).

“This started me on a roller coaster of a 12-day hospital stay, a central dialysis line in my neck, and multiple units of red blood cells and plasma.” Kristin received 330 units of plasma, taking four hours each for 10 of those 12 days.

“I feel blessed for everyone’s thoughts and prayers through it all—especially the blood donors. They have helped me, and numerous others, in our time of greatest need with their generous donations,” said Palocko. “Without those willing to give of their time (and blood) there would not be treatment for TTP.”

In Northern Ohio, donors can visit one of four donation centers in Toledo, Cleveland, Akron or Parma. To schedule a donation appointment, download the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.

When seconds count in the race to save lives, it’s the blood already on the shelves that helps most. Join us and give to help ensure hospitals are ready to respond to the needs of patients this month.

The ‘hows’ of financial contributions: Your questions answered

Giving Day is Wednesday, March 24

By: Sam Pudelski, American Red Cross Volunteer

Donating when you are able to can be a wonderful way to give back to your community and help those who are in need. There are many ways you can support and give to the American Red Cross, including providing a financial gift.

You may be asking yourself: How is my donation used? How much of it is used? How can I donate? All of these are great questions, and ones you should ask before donating to any cause, charity or organization. For those who have questions about the Red Cross, we are providing the answers to some of these common questions about financial contributions.

How much of my donation goes to the Red Cross?

An average of 90 cents of every dollar we receive is invested in delivering care and comfort to those in need.

How is my donation used by the Red Cross?

With the generous support of our donors, we help millions of people each year. Financial donations help to support our programs like disaster relief, blood drives, our Home Fire Campaign, training classes, services to the armed forces and more. Learn more about the work we do here in Northern Ohio.

How can I donate?

If you are looking to give a financial donation to the Red Cross, there are many ways you can donate:

  • Make a donation online
  • Send a donation by mail
  • Donate over the phone
  • Text to donate $10
  • Alexa Donations with Amazon Pay
  • Donate stock, your car, hotel points or airline miles
  • Give in tribute to someone
  • Give monthly

If you want your donation to go even further, ask your employer if they would sponsor a matching program for employees. In a matching program, your donation is matched by the organization or individual that is sponsoring the program.

There are many ways you can give back and support the Red Cross’ mission. We encourage you to learn more about our mission and our work, and if you are able to do so, consider donating this coming Giving Day on March 24—or any day. For details on how to donate or to make a secure donation online, click here.

We thank you for your support!

Edited by: Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

Celebrating Red Cross Month: Volunteer shares reasons why role is fulfilling, invites others to join

By Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer

Throughout the month of March, we honor people like you who make the lifesaving mission of the American Red Cross possible — the individuals across the country who turn compassion into action, helping others in times of crisis. Our Red Cross Month celebration has been an annual tradition since 1943, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the first Red Cross Month proclamation.

 My Volunteer Story

For close to a year, I have been an American Red Cross Transportation Specialist. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically challenged all of us in our daily lives but has also resulted in many learning what is important in their personal lives—family, friends and local communities. I was searching for a way to give back with the extra time I had during the stay-at-home orders. The Transportation Specialist role was a great match.

Volunteer Transportation Specialists deliver lifesaving blood products from Red Cross distribution facilities to hospitals, using a Red Cross-owned vehicle. Simply put, you pick up processed blood at a distribution center, drive it to assigned hospitals and return to drop off empty boxes that you collect.

Chris Chmura delivers blood to a local hospital in his role as a volunteer transportation specialist with the American Red Cross.

My commitment is two to four shifts per month (or more if I can) based on my personal and professional schedule. Typical shifts are about four hours, so I usually schedule to cover routes in the evening /night after work. The Red Cross offers training online and then time spent with a veteran driver to shadow a few days. The amazing employees at the Red Cross support you by answering questions, helping to work with your schedule and steer you in the right direction as you learn your role.  

A few reasons I enjoy the role:

  • My day job is not in the medical field, and I find visiting the Red Cross lab and various hospitals interesting to learn about. You get to experience “behind the scenes” how the Red Cross collects donated blood, how they prepare it for hospitals and see first-hand who it goes to. My favorite route is delivering to Akron Children’s Hospital.
  • You feel a pride and satisfaction volunteering.
  • When I donate blood, I feel a connection to the group who supports the whole process.
  • Other volunteers are welcoming, fun to connect with and build relationships with.
  • I enjoy meeting various people throughout the Red Cross and hospitals that I visit across Northeast Ohio.
  • A large percentage of my time volunteering is drive time, so I relax by listening to podcasts, sports radio or music. 

 Is this Position for You?

Do you enjoy helping your neighbors, giving back to your community and want to enhance your life by using your talents? The Transportation Specialist position might be a good fit for you. You will also need to meet these qualifications to become one:

  • Have a valid state driver’s license and proof of insurance
  • Have three years driving experience and a clean driving record
  • Ability to lift up to 45 lbs.

Check out more details here: https://www.redcross.org/volunteer/volunteer-opportunities/deliver-blood.html.

The Men and Women Behind Our Mission

 We invite you and others to join the Red Cross mission by volunteering, giving blood, learning lifesaving skills or making a financial donation. We are ordinary individuals with the innate desire to do extraordinary things. Red Cross staff and volunteers bring their diverse backgrounds and skills to the table, united by the passion we share for our mission—to prevent and alleviate suffering in the face of emergencies.

 Safety First!

Interested in serving to meet essential service needs in the public? Be sure to review the CDC guidance for people who are at higher risk for severe illness, consult your health care provider and follow local guidance. The number one priority of the American Red Cross is the health and safety of our employees, volunteers, blood donors and recipients, and the people we serve. 

Blood Donations

Don’t forget to donate blood! You don’t need a special reason to give blood. You just need your own reason.

  • Some of us give blood because we were asked by a friend.
  • Some know that a family member or a friend might need blood someday.
  • Some believe it is the right thing to do.
  • Some do it for the free cookies and juice.

To find a blood drive near you, visit https://www.redcrossblood.org/give.html/find-drive.

Everyone can experience and enjoy the great feeling of helping save lives!

When the world stopped, the Red Cross didn’t

Reflections on the response to the pandemic on the one-year anniversary

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

March 2020 would prove to be one of my most memorable volunteer months with the American Red Cross. Within weeks, the world began to see signs like this everywhere.

Everywhere, except at the Red Cross.

Let’s go back to March 1, 2020. This was the day the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the United States, in New York. By then, we had heard about the 400 Americans trapped on a ship in Japan, but we didn’t really consider that the virus was a U.S. problem at the time.

Two days later, everyone forgot about that story when multiple tornadoes ripped through central Tennessee, killing at least 25 people. I recall getting the call that morning and leaving immediately for Nashville to cover the details of the cleanup effort, the sheltering and feeding of hundreds of now homeless people and the mobilization of hundreds of truckloads of supplies.

As I drove home on March 10, New York Governor Cuomo had called on the National Guard to stop traffic around New Rochelle, where 108 cases had been discovered. COVID-19 was now a United States problem.

Just one day later, March 11, the WHO (World Health Organization) would declare this to be an official pandemic with more than 120,000 cases worldwide. That started a landslide of events, and before day’s end:

  • The NBA suspended the 2019-20 season until further notice
  • The NHL paused its 2019-20 season
  • The Dow Jones Industrial 30-day average plunged 20%, ending an 11-year bull market

But what didn’t come crashing to a stop…the Red Cross. 

That same day, President of the American Red Cross Gail McGovern, issued a long memo to all Red Cross volunteers.

In it, she detailed how we would be making all sorts of changes to our day-to-day operations, but what would not change, was our mission to deliver services to those in need.

Blood drives needed to be rescheduled as many businesses closed down, but the need for blood didn’t slow down. By finding larger venues where people could be scheduled and kept socially distanced, the flow of blood continued.

Fires and disasters didn’t stop, but our Humanitarian Services division devised new ways to house people in motels instead of congregate shelters, and our Disaster Action Teams learned to respond virtually using electronic funds transfers to get money quickly into the hands of those left homeless from fires and floods. 

As the rest of the world came to a virtual standstill one year ago today, the Red Cross quickly pivoted to maintain our services to those most in need. If you’d like to help, consider becoming a volunteer or make a contribution to the Red Cross to support our ongoing mission to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. 

Edited by Glenda Bogar, Red Cross Volunteer

Building a blood supply as diverse as the community it serves

Just as people have different hair or eye color and come in all shapes and sizes, they also have different blood types. While most blood types fall into one of the four major groups: A, B, AB and O, some people have rare blood types. Because of their rare blood types, these patients need a more diverse blood supply.

Red blood cells carry markers called antigens that determine one’s blood type. There are more than 600 known antigens, some that are unique to specific racial or ethnic groups. For example, U-negative and Duffy-negative blood types are two types unique to the African American community. When treating patients who have these rare types, blood from donors of the same ethnic background is less likely to cause complications.

November 22, 2020. Portsmouth, Virginia. Grove Church Blood Drive 2020. Photos by Jared Beasley/American Red Cross

This is especially important for patients who have chronic blood disorders that require regular blood transfusions. Glinda Dames-Fincher, of Mayfield Heights, has lived with sickle cell disease for more than 60 years. Sickle cell disease is the most common genetic blood disease in the U.S. and it largely affects those of African and Latino descent. It causes red blood cells to be hard and crescent-shaped instead of soft and round. As a result, blood has difficulty flowing smoothly and carrying oxygen to the rest of the body. Blood transfusion is a known treatment for patients with sickle cell disease.

“As part of my treatment, I receive monthly red cell exchange transfusions. I receive two pints of red blood cells during each of these transfusions,” said Dames-Fincher. “I have received regular blood transfusions for the last 20 years to help manage my sickle cell disease. Without donated blood, sickle cell patients face sickle cell crisis, and other complications such as strokes, organ failure, chronic wounds, and shortened lifespan.”

The need for blood is constant and all eligible donors are encouraged to give and help meet the need. Whether blood is needed for a chronic condition, such as sickle cell disease, a surgical procedure or a large-scale emergency, it’s the blood already on the shelves that helps save lives.

To find a blood drive near you and make an appointment, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or download the free Red Cross Blood Donor App. Visit Red Cross Blood & Diversity to learn more about the need for diverse blood donors.

Solon Community Center leads the way in hosting blood drives

Other hosts needed to serve vital role during challenging times

By Olivia Wyles, American Red Cross volunteer

One of the first things that comes to mind when someone mentions the American Red Cross is blood drives — and rightly so, as the Red Cross provides about 40% of the entire nation’s blood and blood components. However, only about 3% of age-eligible individuals donate blood on an annual basis. Unfortunately, that number has dropped even further in the last year due in part to a lack of blood drive sponsors.

You may recall having the opportunity to donate blood when you were in school. But the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many schools and businesses no longer being able to host blood drives as more and more locations close and/or restrict access to their facilities. Furthermore, finding spaces that are large enough to host Red Cross blood drives while accommodating social distancing has been a challenge. This is a major barrier for the Red Cross, as our blood drive hosts play an absolutely critical role in maintaining a sufficient blood supply by providing opportunities for people to give to others in their local community. More than 80% of the total blood donations are made at blood drives hosted by our volunteers. Our blood drive hosts play an absolutely vital role in helping the Red Cross ensure that blood is available for patients in over 2,500 hospitals throughout the nation.

Solon Community Center has stood out as a leader for not only continuing to host blood drives over the past year, but for even adding additional blood drives to its schedule. Solon Community Center has been a partner of the Red Cross since 2004. Even amidst the pandemic, it was able to collect 1,095 pints of blood in 2020, which has the ability to help save up to 3,285 lives. The persistent dedication of Solon Community Center staff to host blood drives, combined with the constant support of its local blood donors, have served as an exemplary model for other current and potential blood drive hosts who can also advance the Red Cross mission to provide lifesaving blood for those who need it.

Health and safety is a priority for the Red Cross. All of our blood drive hosts follow the highest standards of safety and infection control while we do our jobs. Some of these protocols include temperature checks for both staff and donors prior to entering a blood drive, mandatory face masks, easily-accessible hand sanitizer at every step of the donation process, and social distancing wherever possible. Lastly, we also urge donors to schedule appointments prior to arrival to ensure that we can manage the flow of donors at blood drives.

So what are you waiting for? Your organization or company could be our next blood drive host and help the Red Cross bring lifesaving resources to those who greatly need them. For those interested in hosting a blood drive, please visit https://www.redcrossblood.org/hosting-a-blood-drive/learn-about-hosting/why-host-a-blood-drive.html.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Busting common myths about donating blood

By Samantha Pudeslki, American Red Cross volunteer

Have you always assumed you can’t donate blood? You’re not alone. There are a lot of people who may think they cannot donate, but actually can. Here are a few of the most common myths around blood donation restrictions and the facts you need to know.

Myth #1: You can’t donate blood if you have a tattoo and/or body piercing.

Fact: You can donate blood if you have tattoos and/or body piercings. If you recently had a tattoo and it was applied in a state-regulated/licensed tattoo facility using sterile needles and the ink was not reused, you may not have to wait to give blood. Those who are certain a sterile needle was used for a body piercing also may not need to wait. Otherwise, you must wait one year after receiving a tattoo or body piercing.

Myth #2: You can’t donate blood if you take regular medications.

Fact: In almost all cases, medications won’t disqualify you as a blood donor. Instead, your eligibility is based on the reason the medication was prescribed. As long as the condition is under control and you are healthy, blood donation is usually permitted. If you are unsure, visit our eligibility page at RedCrossBlood.org..

Myth #3: You can’t donate blood if you are a diabetic.

Fact: Diabetics who are well controlled on insulin or oral medications are eligible to donate.

Myth #4: You can’t donate blood if you have had cancer.

Fact: It depends on the type of cancer and your treatment history. Those who have had leukemia or lymphoma, including Hodgkin’s disease and other cancers of the blood are not eligible. With most other types of cancers, you are able to donate blood if it the cancer has been treated successfully and it has been more than 12 months since treatment. Cleveland city councilman Kevin Conwell is once again a regular donor, after winning a battle with cancer. Read his story here.

Myth #5: I am too old or too young to donate.

Fact: You must be 17 years old or 16 years old with parental/guardian consent to donate blood, if allowed by state law. There is no age limit for older adults as long as you are healthy and meet the other criteria.

Myth #6: You can’t donate blood if you have travelled outside of the U.S.

Fact: While there are some travel restrictions in place, they are very specific to the location and time period that the individual spent there. If you have questions about eligibility, you can call 866-236-3276 to speak with an eligibility specialist about your travel.

For more facts around the blood donation process, visit the American Red Cross FAQ page. Ready to donate? Visit our website to find an upcoming drive near you.

If you are someone who is unable to donate blood, there are other ways you can support the cause! The Northern Ohio Region of Red Cross relies on volunteers to help with essential tasks like registration to make sure blood drives run smoothly. To learn more about volunteer opportunities in Northern Ohio, click here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Giving blood gives time to those fighting cancer

By Sue Wilson, American Red Cross volunteer

February 4, 2021- If you or someone you love have gone through a health scare of any kind, you know firsthand how your perspective changes in the blink of an eye. When my husband got his cancer diagnosis, we were shocked. We thought there was a simple explanation for his symptoms. We thought the biopsy was a routine test they were doing along with some others. We were in a state of disbelief when the doctor said that not only was it cancer, but it was advanced. He died a year later.

Cancer has a way of making time an all-consuming obsession. The realization that every minute is important, every day should be cherished, and that time is a precious commodity is never far from my thoughts. 

When you think about fighting cancer, the first thing you may think of is chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. What so many don’t realize is that many cancer patients undergoing chemo will likely have a need for blood. In fact, five units of blood are needed every minute to help someone going through cancer treatment. Patients fighting cancer use nearly one quarter of the nation’s blood supply – more than patients fighting any other disease. And, yet, only 3% of people in the U.S. regularly donate blood.

You may not have put the two together before but giving blood can help patients fight cancer. There simply aren’t enough people regularly donating blood to meet the ongoing need. That’s the message the American Red Cross wants to spread.

We know that not everyone is eligible to donate blood, so a financial donation is also encouraged. By making a financial gift in any amount, you’re helping to give patients and their families time, resources and the hope they need to fight back.

My grief had me vacillating between a depressive despair that made me want to do nothing and a manic desire to do anything and everything to help others who were suffering. But I didn’t know where to start. Donating blood is a start. It’s a meaningful way to honor someone you love who is battling or has battled cancer. To learn more and to schedule a blood donation appointment, visit RedCrossBlood.org.

To make a financial gift, visit redcross.org/donate.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteers

Northeast Ohio donors and nurse see firsthand how simple act of donating blood saves lives, urge others to give to make a difference

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

January 28, 2021- Jennifer Bowen of Tallmadge, Ohio, rolled up her sleeve at an American Red Cross blood drive recently and donated for the first time. “I wish it didn’t take a tragic event to make me realize how simple it is to help save a life!” she said. 

“My niece Alivia is only 12 years old and needs weekly blood transfusions to survive, due to her diagnosis of Severe Aplastic Anemia. Alivia, while living with this condition, is so positive, so strong and just inspires me to make a difference in the world!” explained Jennifer.  

January is National Blood Donor Month, which spotlights the fact that due to seasonal illnesses, the number of people signing up for blood drives drops off. But the need for lifesaving or life-sustaining blood transfusions never dries up. 

Jesika Florin of Hudson, Ohio, sees that need up close and personal: “I’ve been a nurse for over a decade. I administer all blood products to patients on a regular basis. 

“I’ve seen the baby fighting for life with a bad heart. I’ve seen the dad who endured traumatic injuries from a car accident. I’ve seen the pregnant mother losing her child. I’ve seen the grandmother who couldn’t afford health care and put everyone’s needs above her own only to find her body giving out. I’ve seen the teenage son who sustained gunshot wounds.”

“Blood products saved these people’s lives. The countless bags of blood products I’ve hung have all had stories of lives saved and lives lost. I see the difference a 15 to 30 minute donation can make. I see the life come back in a person after a transfusion. It may be a needle stick to my arm, but it’s someone’s family I’m helping to have more time with those they love.” 

Jesika donates, and she has advice for anyone considering giving blood for the first time: “Hop up on that table, put your latest show on your phone, breathe (because 1, 2, 3…stick). Now, close your eyes, clear your head and thoughts, just relax, and take a few moments for you. Once you’re all done, grab your snack, and walk out knowing you just saved someone’s life, or three.” 

Three? What does she mean by “three?”  

Every unit of whole blood can be administered as is, such as to accident victims or sickle cell patients. Or a unit of blood may be separated into its main components:  

  • red blood cells (frequently given to trauma and surgery patients) 
  • platelets (used to treat blood disorders like anemia and certain cancers) 
  • plasma (used to treat a variety of acute conditions, such as severe burns). 

David Masirovits of Ashtabula, Ohio, is committed to Power Red donations. Power Red is similar to a whole blood donation, except a special machine is used to allow the donor to safely give two units of red blood cells during one donation while receiving their plasma and platelets back at the same time. 

“My sister Susan and I had a Power Red competition for several years until she passed away in 2016,” said David. “So now I give for her and am proud to do so. My sister started it and now I get to finish it. When she passed, she had 28 Power Red donations. 

“For an hour of your time, you have the opportunity to change someone’s life forever. Someday this life could be a friend and or a family member. So do it, please!” urged David. 

To sign up for a blood drive near you, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767). 

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer