First time donor gives blood to aid with shortage

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

March 25, 2020- The COVID-19 outbreak is all anyone can talk about in Northeast Ohio. Beyond the immediate health emergency, the virus is threatening to create additional future public health emergencies due to the current blood shortage.

As of March 23, about 7,000 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country due to coronavirus concerns, resulting in more than 200,000 fewer blood donations. This is why the Red Cross is asking all healthy and eligible individuals to donate lifesaving blood.

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Jenna Ostrowski with Regional CEO Mike Parks

On March 20, the Cleveland Clinic lent a helping hand to put an end to the blood shortage by opening their doors to host a much needed blood drive.

One of the donors present at the blood drive was Jenna Ostrowski, a medical technologist in the Automated Hematology Department. This moment was a milestone for Jenna, as she was a first time blood donor, who was motivated to take the leap to officially become a blood donor due to the need following the outbreak.

“I figured now is the time, since so many people need blood. It’s a good opportunity for caregivers since the drive is right here at the Clinic,” stated Jenna.

Red Cross of Northeast Ohio Regional CEO Mike Parks was present at the blood drive, thanking Cleveland Clinic President Tomislav Mihaljevic for opening the Cleveland Clinic’s doors to host the blood drive and to thank donors like Jenna for giving the gift of life.

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Tomislav Mihaljevic speaking with Mike Parks

Everyone at the Red Cross understands why people may be hesitant to come out for a blood drive, but we want to assure the public that we are taking additional precautions to ensure the safety of our donors, volunteers and staff.

Volunteers and staff are checking the temperature of  everyone before they enter a drive to make sure they are healthy. Hand sanitizer is available for use before entering the drive, as well as throughout the donation process. We are also spacing beds, where possible, to follow social distancing practices between blood donors.

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Red Cross employees follow strict safety procedures, including wearing gloves and changing them often, wiping down all donor-touched surfaces and equipment and preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub.

If you are a first-time donor, like Jenna, click here to learn some helpful best practices.

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If you are healthy, feeling well and eligible to give blood or platelets, please make an appointment to donate as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

To view more photos from the Cleveland Clinic blood drive, visit the Northeast Ohio Region Flickr page.

Healthy blood donors needed amid coronavirus concerns

March 11, 2020- With confirmed coronavirus disease cases in Northeast Ohio and the state of Ohio declaring a state of emergency, and with schools across the region closed and events postponed due to precautions, the American Red Cross strongly urges healthy, eligible individuals who are feeling well to give blood or platelets to help maintain a sufficient blood supply and prevent shortages as concerns about the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, rise in the U.S.

Cold and flu season has already impacted the nation’s ability to maintain its blood supply. As the number of coronavirus cases grows in the U.S., the number of people eligible to give blood for patients in need could decrease further.

“We’re asking the American people to help keep the blood supply stable during this challenging time. As communities across the country prepare for this public health emergency, it’s critical that plans include a readily available blood supply for hospital patients,” said Chris Hrouda, president, Red Cross Blood Services. “As fears of coronavirus rise, low donor participation could harm blood availability at hospitals, and the last thing a patient should worry about is whether lifesaving blood will be on the shelf when they need it most.”

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Donating blood is a safe process and people should not hesitate to give or receive blood. There are no data or evidence that this coronavirus can be transmissible by blood transfusion, and there have been no reported cases worldwide of transmissions for any respiratory virus, including this coronavirus, from a transfusion.

The Red Cross only collects blood from individuals who are healthy and feeling well at the time of donation – and who meet other eligibility requirements, available at RedCrossBlood.org. At each blood drive and donation center, Red Cross employees follow thorough safety protocols including wearing gloves, routinely wiping down donor-touched areas, using sterile collection sets for every donation, and preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub. These mitigation measures will help ensure blood recipient safety, as well as staff and donor safety in reducing contact with those who may potentially have this respiratory infection.

Blood drive hosts play important role
Blood drive hosts also play a critical role in maintaining a sufficient blood supply and are asked to keep hosting blood drives for patients who rely on lifesaving blood. The need for blood is constant, and volunteer donors are the only source of blood for those in need of transfusions.

The Red Cross, with the help of its blood drive hosts and blood donors, can help ensure the safety and availability of the U.S. blood supply for patients including accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease.

“Keep giving, keep hosting blood drives,” said Hrouda. “Patients across the country need our help.”

To learn more about hosting a blood drive for patients in need, please visit RedCrossBlood.org.

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Red Cross committed to blood supply safety

The top priority of the Red Cross is the safety of our valued staff, blood donors and blood recipients, and we are committed to transparency with the American public during this evolving public health emergency. There are no data or evidence that this coronavirus can be transmissible by blood transfusion, and there have been no reported cases worldwide of transmissions for any respiratory virus including this coronavirus, from a transfusion.

Nonetheless, the Red Cross has implemented new blood donation deferrals out of an abundance of caution. Individuals are asked to postpone their donation for 28 days following:

  • Travel to China and its special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as Iran, Italy and South Korea;
  • Diagnosis of COVID-19, contact with a person who has or is suspected to have the virus.

As the situation evolves, the Red Cross will continue to evaluate all emerging risks in collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and industry partners to determine if additional intervention strategies are needed. Together, we stand ready to keep the American public informed and prepared.

Blood donation process

A blood donation takes about an hour from start to finish, but the actual donation itself only takes about 8-10 minutes. Donors can also save up to 15 minutes at the blood drive by completing 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, individuals need to bring a blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification that are required at 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.

 

March is Red Cross Month

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

February 28, 2020- You’ve probably seen the American Red Cross blood drive signs across town, and you’ve probably passed a Red Cross vehicle or two recently. But did you know that March is Red Cross Month?

The first nationally proclaimed Red Cross Month was the idea of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943. He said, “I request that during that month (March) our people rededicate themselves to the splendid aims and activities of the Red Cross.” It’s been remembered each year since.

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Every day the Red Cross answers the calls from those in need in many ways. Our blood collection unit supplies about 40% of the blood requirements of the United States. Each unit of blood can save as many as three lives.

Our Service to the Armed Forces unit helps military members, veterans and their families in many ways, including making contact military members when there is a family emergency.

Our disaster services team responds to local, national and international emergencies. Regionally, we respond to an average of three home fires every 24 hours.

What most people don’t realize is that the Red Cross is a charitable organization, not a government agency. It depends on volunteers and the generosity of people like you to perform our mission. Another interesting fact is that the Red Cross is part of the world’s largest volunteer network, found in 187 counties.

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WWFDRS?  (What would FDR say?)

His idea was for everyone to adopt the aim and activities of the Red Cross. For some, that might mean a donation if they don’t have time to serve. You can always make a donation here.

But if you really want to make a difference, consider volunteering. It will make a difference in someone else’s life as well as your own. There’s no better feeling than being able to assist someone when they are at their lowest hour.

Volunteer opportunities exist now for many talents. But we are especially in need of people to:

1) Join the Disaster Action Team, which goes out in pairs after a local fire or flood to provide financial and emotional support.

2) Become a Home Fire Campaign volunteer to spend an afternoon assisting with the installation of free smoke alarms in local neighborhoods.

3) Serve as drivers to Transport Blood products from blood drives to our main office and then to hospitals. Clean driving record needed. Vehicles provided.

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There’s no experience needed for any of these positions, and they can be done by the young as well as the young-at-heart. Hours are flexible and all training is provided. Make FDR proud, and consider joining our mission to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer 

An extra day to make a difference

Leap year provides opportunity to help others

By Sue Wilson, American Red Cross volunteer

February 26, 2020- The American Red Cross responds to needs in our community 365 days a year. But this year it’s 366 days. Yes, there’s an extra day to do much-needed work because it’s leap year.

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What is leap year and why is it happening? In a nutshell, the standard calendar year is 365 days, but the Earth takes 365 days 5 hours 48 minutes and 46 seconds to go completely around the sun. This is called a solar year. In order to keep the calendar cycle synchronized with the seasons, one extra day is added every four years. Feb. 29 is one of those days, making 2020 a “leap year.”

So what are you going to do with your extra day?

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How about making it a day to do good for an organization that does so much good every day of the year? The Red Cross may not be top of mind as you go through your day-to-day life. Unless there is a natural disaster that makes the news headlines, it’s hard to remember that the work of the Red Cross and its volunteers goes quietly along 365 day a year, ready and waiting to respond to people who face emergencies.

  • 365 days a year, the Red Cross secures food and lodging for the family struck by a home fire.
  • 365 days a year, the Red Cross is there for a deployed soldier who needs to get home for a family emergency.
  • 365 days a year, the Red Cross is providing life-saving blood to someone who needs it.
  • 365 days a year, everyday people become heroes because they learned skills that helped save a life due to CPR/AED training from their local Red Cross.
  • 365 days a year, the Red Cross is there, ready to help.

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Maybe your life was made better and safer because you learned to swim. Or you became a lifeguard or took a babysitting class through the Red Cross. These things may slip our mind as we go through our daily lives. But on this 366th day, it’s a great time to remember the Red Cross through your donation.

There are so many ways to donate. You can donate online, by mail, phone, text or through your Alexa device. And you can make this leap year last 366 days by setting up monthly donations. For the price of a cup of your daily coffee, you can make a huge difference in the lives of someone who needs the help of the Red Cross every day. You can also specify whether your donation stays local. You can even specify whether you want your money to go where it is “most needed” or perhaps to a specific service or need close to your heart.

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This leap year, make your extra day count. Give to the Red Cross.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster report: February 21-23, 2020

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

February 24, 2020- Despite the sunny and warm weather this weekend, local disasters did not take a break.

During this past weekend, the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio assisted 22 individuals and provided more than $4,500 in immediate financial assistance, as well as providing snacks and beverages for first responders.

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One of the incidents that the Red Cross responded to was a massive fire which occurred Sunday night on Hilliard Boulevard in Rocky River.  The fire, which destroyed residental complex which was under construction,  forced some nearby residents to flee their homes because of their proximity to the fire.

Three residents received immediate financial assistance to help them find shelter Sunday night, when they indicated they had no other place to stay.  Red Cross workers plan to continue contacting affected residents to assess their needs and provide appropriate assistance.

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Five volunteers responded to the fire to distribute blankets, water and snacks to the residents who were unable to return to their homes, and to the firefighters from various communities who responded to the fire.

“We could not help people in need without our volunteers,” said Ben Bellucci, disaster program manager for the Red Cross of Greater Cleveland.  “They are vital to our mission, providing comfort and care when people like the folks in Rocky River need emergency assistance.”

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Just as disasters do not discriminate in terms of whose lives they destroy; the Red Cross does not discriminate in terms of whose lives we help rebuild. The Red Cross does not turn away people who need assistance after a disaster. We are committed to helping everyone in need.

As the largest humanitarian organization in the world, the Red Cross has the ability to use your donation to reach more people in need, more quickly. Your donation to the Red Cross helps provide food, shelter, relief supplies, emotional support, recovery planning and other assistance during disasters.

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To help the Red Cross provide hope and comfort to individuals in Northeast Ohio experiencing their darkest hours, please visit redcross.org/donate to provide a financial donation. Any amount donated truly helps with their recovery.

 

Red Cross has my heart, on Valentine’s Day and every day

My family’s Red Cross connection and how a blood drive led to lasting love

By Renee Palagyi, Senior Disaster Program Manager

February 14, 2020- Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. Partly because it’s also my birthday but mostly because it’s the time to think about love and caring. In that spirit, here’s my love story.

My dad, Pvt. Charles Fedor, was 19 in the 1940s when his Army battalion was sent to Germany during World War II. He also fought in France before returning safely home. I’m sure he saw horrific things in those years but he never spoke about that time to his children.

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Pvt. Charles Fedor

What my dad did share with his children happened while he was still in basic training at Fort Sill. Sadly, his baby brother Paul died in a car accident and Dad told us how he was “brought home” by the American Red Cross. According to Dad, a Red Cross nurse was with the commanding officer to deliver the tragic news, waited while he packed his belongings and took him to the train station. When he arrived in Conneaut, a Red Cross worker met him at the train station and drove him home.

My quiet, soft-spoken dad, a lifetime blood donor, told his six children that they should all think of ways to give back to the Red Cross.

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Renee with her husband Stan Palagyi

Fast forward to 1969. My mother was working as a “Gray Lady”*  at the local Red Cross bloodmobile and they needed extra help. She called home where I was enjoying my two-week summer vacation from nursing school and “asked” that I come help. I was hooked the minute I arrived. Everyone was friendly and talkative and they were all thanking the blood donors. I couldn’t wait to go back to the next bloodmobile!

I graduated from nursing school in 1971 and made sure I always had the time in my surgical nurse schedule to work the blood drive every other month. Back then, we volunteer nurses were allowed to do more, and I routinely did histories and screening of about half of the 200-plus donors we had every 56 days.

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Renee and Stan’s wedding day

It happened that the January blood drive in 1973 was super busy and I worked the entire eight hours, screening donors and talking with many folks who had been greeted by my mom and her fellow Gray Ladies. What I did not know, was that my loving mother and her cohorts were carefully vetting the donors in search of a beau for me! All women and older men were directed to the other screener while I got all of the “eligible bachelors.” I can only imagine that greeting process, which went far beyond, “Did you read the materials today?” and more into, “So what do you do for a living?” Oh my.

Well, two days later I got a call. “Hi, my name is Stan Palagyi and we met at the bloodmobile. I was wondering if you’d like to see a movie this weekend.” I had absolutely NO IDEA who this person was after seeing so many donors that day. Yet, I was single and, admittedly, desperate for a date. I said “yes.”

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Stan and I were married in December 1973 and are the parents of four children and grandparents of eight. Just this past summer, we welcomed our first great grandchild.

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Renee and Stan Palagyi and their great-grandson

Stan and I are regular blood donors and on occasion have made it to the same blood drive where people enjoy hearing the story of how we met. I know my Type O negative blood is very valuable and I love watching the story of my donation on the Red Cross blood app. I am grateful for the chance to save up to three lives every 56 days. I am super grateful to have found the love of my life while we were both helping others through the Red Cross.

Show you care and give blood to help save a life. To find a blood drive near you, visit https://www.redcrossblood.org/give.html/find-drive.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

*Gray Ladies were Red Cross volunteers who wore a gray nurse-style uniform, complete with cap.

They worked in hospitals delivering flowers and gifts and sometimes the book cart ( mini lending library). They staffed hospital gift shops and made blankets and stuffed toys to sell there.

They did registrations and snacks at bloodmobiles. During the war, they packed gift boxes for soldiers with handmade socks etc.

In general, they were the non-professional female volunteer corps for many years.

I loved the Gray Ladies! – Renee Palagyi

 

Enjoy the open road as you help save lives

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

January 10, 2020- Do you enjoy the freedom of driving on the open road? Are you always volunteering to drive around family and friends? Are you looking for an opportunity to help save lives, while enjoying your love of driving? Well, you are in luck!

Volunteer Couriers

The American Red Cross is currently looking for passionate drivers to serve as volunteer transportation specialists in Cuyahoga County. This unique opportunity allows volunteers to support blood pick-up at both mobile and fixed site blood drives in Cuyahoga County.

The Red Cross collects and distributes about 40% of our nation’s blood supply. As a volunteer transportation specialist, when you pick up blood, platelets or other blood products from a blood collection site or deliver them to a hospital, you’re delivering lifesaving hope to a person in need.

Volunteer Couriers

Still not sure if this is quite the right fit? Listen to Peter Hoffman, one of the transportation specialists in Cuyahoga County. Hear why Peter volunteers with the Red Cross, some of his tasks and the feeling he gets from helping others in need.

For more information and to apply to become a volunteer transportation specialist, visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 216-431-3328.