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. 

 

 

Browns fans step up to help address severe blood shortage at annual Cleveland Browns Blood Drive

For Cleveland Browns fans across northeast Ohio, the opening of Training Camp this past weekend was a welcome site after COVID-19 disrupted so much last season. And, while lots of exciting action was taking place in Berea, fans across Northern Ohio were also showing their love for the hometown team by helping save lives.

The annual Cleveland Browns Blood Drive was held this past weekend at 12 locations across northern Ohio. The blood drive is part of Browns Training Camp weekend each year and is one of the largest blood drives in the region. This year was no exception. Fans stepped up in a big way to help address a continuing severe blood shortage, donating 571 pints which have the potential to help more than 1,700 patients, as each pint can help up to three individuals.

Many fans came to give at FirstEnergy stadium, home of the Cleveland Browns. Christopher Haddock, of Euclid, is the city Fire Chief and knows firsthand the importance of giving blood. “I was in a car crash in 2006 and needed 15 pints of blood. I’m giving back,” said Haddock. “And I bleed orange and brown.”

Chris Haddock donates blood at FirstEnergy Stadium during the Cleveland Browns Blood Drive July 31
Bridget C. Miller Harper gives blood during the annual
Cleveland Browns Blood Drive

Bridget C. Miller Harper works in the transplant department at University Hospitals. “My mom taught me to give back,” she said. “I feel I’m giving back to my patients.”

Shelby Kulick, Therese Kaye and Abigail Seaman began donating blood together while in college at Baldwin Wallace. Back then, they received free burritos after giving. Even though there’s no more free food, the friends continue to donate together.

Shelby Kulick, Therese Kaye and Abigail Seaman at FirstEnergy Stadium
for the Cleveland Browns Blood Drive

The support of the Cleveland Browns and their fans was crucial as the Red Cross continues to face a severe blood shortage and has an emergency need for donors. For those who couldn’t give blood this past weekend, the Red Cross urges donors of all blood types – especially type O and those giving platelets – to make an appointment to give now to help ensure hospital shelves are stocked with blood products to meet patient needs.

During the month of August, the Red Cross is partnering with the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival and Apple Music for two different promotions to encourage more people to come and give. Read our recent blog post to learn more. And, to see more photos from this past weekend, check out our Flickr album. To find a blood drive near you or for more information, visit RedCrossBlood.org. Go Browns!

Donors continue to respond to blood shortage

It had been about five years since Ellen Eoff last donated blood. “I heard about the shortage,” she said as she rested on a donor bed at a recent blood drive at the Church of the Savior in Cleveland Heights. “I’m vaccinated and felt comfortable about donating blood again.”

Red Cross blood donor Ellen Eoff

Ellen was one of 44 people who donated at the blood drive, helping the American Red Cross address a severe blood shortage, as hospitals respond to an unusually high number of traumas and emergency room visits, organ transplants and elective surgeries.

In most cases, those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine – like Ellen – can donate. However, knowing the name of the manufacturer of the vaccine they received is important in determining donation eligibility.

Currently, the Red Cross needs to collect more than 1,000 additional blood donations each day to meet current demand. That’s why donations like Ellen’s are so important.

Red Cross blood donor Michael Melicoff and blood drive supervisor Shantel Haynes

“I donate for the public good,” said Michael Melincoff, who has been a Red Cross blood donor for more than 40 years. “I donate 2 to 4 times a year,” he said. He also makes financial donations in response to disasters.

Patricia Moyer said she’s working toward donating her second gallon of blood. “It was there when I needed it,” she said, referring to a past surgical procedure she experienced.

WEWS News 5 reporter Caroline Sweeney and photographer Anthony Garcia helped the Red Cross spread the word about the blood shortage by covering the blood drive. You can see their report here.

To thank donors who help refuel the blood and platelet supply this month, all who come to give July 7-31 will receive a $10 Amazon.com Gift Card via email and will also receive automatic entry for a chance to win gas for a year (a $5,000 value). More information and details are available at rcblood.org/fuel. Also, all those who come to donate throughout the entire month of July will be automatically entered for a chance to win a trip for four to Cedar Point or Knott’s Berry Farm. To learn more, visit rcblood.org/CedarFair.

Donors who give now will help stock the shelves for the rest of the summer season. Schedule an appointment to give blood or platelets by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.

Red Cross facing severe blood shortage: Donors needed now

The American Red Cross is experiencing a severe blood shortage as the number of trauma cases, organ transplants and elective surgeries rise– and deplete the nation’s blood inventory. Donors of all blood types – especially type O and those giving platelets – are urged to make an appointment to give as soon as possible to prevent further impact to patients.

Right now, hospitals are responding to an atypically high number of traumas and emergency room visits, as well as overdoses and resulting transplants. In comparison to 2019, the Red Cross has seen demand from trauma centers climb by 10% in 2021− more than five times the growth of other facilities that provide blood transfusions.  

The Red Cross Northern Ohio Region appreciates the support of the local media, who have shared our need for blood and encouraged the community to come out now and help overcome the shortage. Read more at the links below:

WKYC – TV
WEWS-TV
WFMJ – TV
WKBN-TV
WNWO-TV
The Canton Repository
The Monroe News
Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune
WFIN Radio

In addition to trauma needs, there is a great hospital demand for blood as people who deferred care during the height of the pandemic present with more advanced disease progression, requiring increased blood transfusions. Over the last three months, the Red Cross has distributed about 75,000 more blood products than expected to meet these needs.

In most cases, those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine can donate. However, knowing the name of the manufacturer of the vaccine they received is important in determining donation eligibility.

Final weeks for COVID-19 antibody testing

As more than a third of Americans have become fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the Red Cross is winding down COVID-19 antibody testing for blood, platelet and plasma donations. 

Through June 25, the Red Cross is testing all donations for COVID-19 antibodies. Testing may show possible exposure to the virus or whether a donor has developed an immune response to vaccination. The conclusion of Red Cross antibody testing represents a new, hopeful phase as the nation continues to journey out of this pandemic.  

Thanks to the donors who turned out in Twinsburg at the Cleveland Clinic blood drive on June 16, 2021. Their donations will help alleviate the current blood shortage.

The Red Cross of Northern Ohio hosts around 20 blood drives each day across the 30 counties we serve. Approximately 80 local hospitals in Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown and Toledo depend on us to help meet the blood transfusion needs of patients. Below are several upcoming blood drives across the region. Schedule an appointment to give blood now by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device. As a thank-you, those who come to give now through June 30 will receive a $5 Amazon.com Gift Card via email, courtesy of Amazon. (Restrictions apply. Additional information and details are available at RedCrossBlood.org/Together.)  

Cleveland
June 25, 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., Mentor Civic Arena, 8600 Munson Rd., Mentor
June 28, 1 – 7 p.m., Independence Community Center, 6363 Selig Drive, Independence June 29, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.: Cuyahoga Valley Church, 5055 E. Wallings Rd., Broadview Heights
June 30, Noon – 7 p.m., Avon Isle Park, 37080 Detroit Road, Avon

Akron/Canton
June 28, Noon – 6 p.m., St Paul Lutheran Church, 127 Cherry Road NE, Massillon
June 30, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., United Methodist Church, 1435 E. Main St., Kent
July 1, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m., Cuyahoga Falls Natatorium, 2345 4th St., Cuyahoga Falls

Youngstown
June 24, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Stambaugh Auditorium, 1000 Fifth Ave., Youngstown
June 28, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Boardman Public Library, 7680 Glenwood Ave., Boardman
June 30, Noon – 6 p.m., Packard Music Hall, 1703 Mahoning Ave., Warren

Toledo
June 26, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., First Presbyterian Church, 200 East Broadway, Maumee
June 27, 8:30 a.m. – 2 p.m., Grace Lutheran Church, 4441 Monroe St., Toledo
June 28, 1:30 p.m. – 6 p.m., Fremont VFW, 204 Birchard Ave., Fremont
June 30, 9:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., Zoar Lutheran Church, 314 East Indiana, Perrysburg

“You’re not donating blood. You’re donating life.”

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

Have you ever set a goal and reached it? How about doubling the goal and reaching that?

Now, how about knowing that in reaching those goals you’ve saved or improved the quality of life for hundreds of men, women and especially children?

Al Whitney knows that feeling: He’s donated platelets – the part of blood that creates clotting – in all 50 states. Twice!  Oh, and in Canada and Australia for good measure.

“When people ask me why I do this, I just tell them, ‘You go and walk through a cancer ward and then come back and ask me why I do it’,” he said. “You’re not donating blood. You’re donating life.”

The spry 84-year-old began his life-saving career in 1965, when he saw a big Red Cross sign in downtown Cleveland that said, “Donate blood.” So he did. When he walked out, he was inspired: “Al, you can do more.”

So he started organizing regular blood drives in Avon Lake, his home town, while continuing to donate blood himself, every 56 days.

Sometime in the late 1970s or early ‘80s, he switched to donating platelets, which are always in short supply because that blood component only has a shelf life of five days. Every 15 seconds, someone with cancer, chronic disease or traumatic injuries needs platelets.

In the process of platelet donation, the blood clotting portion of whole blood is “spun” out and the rest of the blood is returned to the donor; typically, the body replaces its platelets in 24-36 hours. The FDA allows platelet donors to give 24 times a year.

In the fall of 2007, Al challenged himself to donate platelets in every state. It took him five years to reach that goal. “Al, you can do more,” whispered in his ear again.  So he set out to double the feat. He hit that target in March this year, when he made a donation in Albuquerque, N.M.

“Sometimes people will tell me, ‘I don’t like needles’,” Al said. “I tell them, ‘I know how you feel. But think of that little boy in the cancer ward. Do you think he likes needles?’ ”

As of his most recent donation, on April 21, Al has given 983 units. “God willing, I’ll make it to 1,000,” he said. He looks forward to hitting that milestone this fall, at the Red Cross donation center in Cleveland.

To learn more about donating platelets through the American Red Cross, visit  https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/how-to-donate/types-of-blood-donations/platelet-donation.html

Editor’s Note: The Red Cross currently has an emergency need for platelets and type O blood, as hospital demand for these products continues to outpace donations. Over the last year, the Red Cross has collected over 1 million units of platelets, and nearly half of those have been provided to patients undergoing cancer treatment. More platelet donors are needed to continue to meet these needs. 

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.

A summer full of life: Perfect time to give and receive

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Been cooped up since COVID-19 started? Now that mask mandates have been relaxed for your time in the outdoors, it’s the perfect time to get out and rediscover nature.

The woods are getting green again, with lots of new leaves on the trees. Creeks and rivers have lost their icy cover. Flowers are bursting out all over, and gentle breezes make it a joy to be outdoors.

In addition, fresh air is associated with all types of health improvements: from mood enhancement to clarity of focus to brain, lung, digestive and blood benefits.

Speaking of blood, did you realize that blood donations go down around the summer holidays, but accidents and hospitalizations don’t. For instance, a serious automobile accident victim can require as many as 100 units of blood. And, it’s the blood products already on the shelves that help save lives in emergencies.

Type O negative is the universal blood type and is what emergency room personnel reach for when there is no time to determine the blood type of patients in the most serious situations. Type O positive blood is the most used blood type because it can be transfused to Rh-positive patients of any blood type.

Not sure what blood type you are? Come donate and you’ll find out. Your blood will also be tested for COVID-19 antibodies. Test results will be available to donors via the American Red Cross Blood Donor App or at RedCrossBlood.org within one to two weeks.

Now would be a DOUBLY beneficial time to donate.

In thanks for making it a summer full of life, those who come to give May 1-15 will receive a $5 Amazon.com gift card by email. Those who make it in to donate during the month of May will also automatically be entered for a chance to win a travel trailer camper that sleeps five, powered by Suburban Propane.*

Additional details are available at http://RedCrossBlood.org/SummerFullOfLife.

*Restrictions apply. Winner must provide tow vehicle with the appropriate tow capacity for use with the prize vehicle at all times, i.e., such as a full-sized truck or SUV, in order to take delivery of the prize (2021 Coachmen Clipper Cadet 21CBH, estimated at 5,000 pounds).

Edited by: Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

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.

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.