Recognizing Red Cross phlebotomists during National Blood Collectors Week

By Christy Peters, American Red Cross Regional Communications Manager

Often, when I tell someone I work for the American Red Cross, I get one of two responses. The first is usually a story about how the Red Cross helped the person or someone they knew. The second reaction is an immediate explanation of how the person really wants to give blood but they’re nervous and they just don’t think they could ever do that.

I can make you feel better right now if you happen to be one of those people who’s never given blood. I didn’t start giving until I began working for the Red Cross and, even then, it took me a really long time to finally do it. What’s even worse? A big part of my job is talking about why we need more people to give! So, what made me finally take the plunge? Getting to know the amazing phlebotomists at the Red Cross.

I recently gave my 12th pint of blood and, as always, I was nervous as I went through the process. But I was lucky because that day, La’shawn Sims was my phlebotomist. She was incredible…funny, kind, enthusiastic and she calmed my nerves immediately. La’shawn has been with the Red Cross for three years as a phlebotomist/driver.

Red Cross Northern Ohio phlebotomist La’shawn Sims prepares blood products for transport during a blood drive at University Hospitals in Cleveland.

“I love my job because of its mission, the ability to help others save lives,” said La’shawn. “I love listening to the donors and the reasons why they donate.”

September 4-10 is National Blood Collectors Week, a time to recognize the amazing work done every single day at the Red Cross by phlebotomists like La’shawn. In the Northern Ohio Region nearly 100 individuals work in this role, helping to collect blood in communities across the Region. The position requires an individual to complete weeks of specific Red Cross training, both in the classroom and on the job, prior to working independently.

Northern Ohio phlebotomist Ariel Blanks prepares to draw blood from Martha Liechty at the 2022 Cleveland Browns Blood Drive

In addition to collecting blood, many staff members drive Red Cross trucks loaded with the equipment needed to set up and run a successful blood drive. The driver role often requires first heading to Regional headquarters in downtown Cleveland, loading the truck and then driving it to the blood drive location. Phlebotomists can also take additional training to learn how to collect Power Red or platelet donations, which require a different process than whole blood collection. Above all else, these individuals are the face of the Red Cross, helping donors through the blood donation process, ensuring a positive experience and hopefully, a lifetime of blood donations.

During National Blood Collectors Week, we give thanks to you – all the phlebotomists who are on the front lines each day, ensuring patients have the blood they need. And, even if you’re nervous like me, La’shawn encourages everyone to donate blood.

“It only takes 30 minutes of your time, and you’ll help save three lives with just one pint.” And, whether it’s La’shawn, or another great Northern Ohio collections staff member, you can know you’ll be in great hands.

A chance to give back: One family’s first blood drive 

By Ryan Lang, American Red Cross Volunteer

“In the cancer world, I don’t think people understand how much blood product is needed and just how important it is.” 

Ed Fink, Krista Fink, Dylan Fink, Grady Fink

Those are the words of Krista Fink, mother of now 15-year-old Dylan Fink, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma back in September 2019 at just 14 years old. That moment will forever be cemented in time as one of the most profound moments of Krista’s and her husband Ed’s lives. 

Will our son be OK? Will he play sports again? What now? All of those questions and so many more raced through their minds as they first had to consider how to tell Dylan, whose biggest concern to that point was trying out for the high school basketball team. 

They did tell Dylan and then the Fink family began their treatment plan, attacking the cancer as aggressively as they could, all while holding onto the hope that Dylan would be OK.

Chemotherapy was the first order of business, and it started almost immediately after Dylan’s official diagnosis. This continued over the course of nearly seven months, and as it does, chemo took its toll on Dylan and his young body, leaving him weak and his blood counts drastically low.

“It was after his fourth round of chemo that he needed his first blood transfusion,” Ed said. And over the course of his more than 100 days in the hospital between September 2019 and March 2020, Dylan would undergo nine blood transfusions and 11 platelet transfusions in addition to his cancer treatments.

Then came May 4, 2020, eight months to the day from when he was diagnosed with cancer. Dylan was able to “ring the bell” at Akron Children’s hospital, marking his remission.

“For Dylan, that was the goal… We talked about ‘the bell’ so much, and when it did happen it was truly a miracle,” Krista said.

From the moment Dylan’s treatments began, Ed and Krista Fink had decided that when they could, they would find a way to give back to all of the people who helped them, and helped Dylan, along the way. Between moral and emotional support and, of course, blood donations family and friends had made in Dylan’s honor, the Finks had a lot to be grateful for, and in turn, according to Ed, a lot to give back. 

That’s where the Fearless Fighters Foundation started. It’s the nonprofit started by Ed and Krista Fink, in honor of Dylan, with the mission of “crushing all pediatric cancers by funding research for new and improved treatments as well as helping families who are currently going through treatment,” according to the group’s Facebook page. As the Finks were launching the foundation, trying to decide what type of event would really get their charitable efforts off the ground, the answer came to them quickly: a blood drive! What better way to support pediatric cancer patients than helping to provide the lifesaving blood that Dylan was so dependent on during his treatment. 

On Wednesday, December 15, 2021, the Finks and the Fearless Fighters Foundation are hosting their very first blood drive at the SYB hall in Stow, located at 4157 Hudson Drive. For details, see the Facebook event page. There are several appointments still available for donors. Ed and Krista are urging all who can to sign up as soon as they can to secure their spot. 

December’s blood drive, the Finks said, is the first of many opportunities for their family to give back. For cancer patients needing blood products over the course of their treatments, there was one message Krista wanted to convey: “They would not be able to survive without it.” 

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

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!

Celebrating a milestone

140 years of service, innovation, and hope

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

May 21 marks a milestone in the history of American compassion and generosity: 140 years ago today, Clara Barton organized the American Association of the Red Cross to appeal for clothing and funds for victims of a devastating forest fire in Michigan.

Circa1865. Matthew Brady portrait of Clara Barton.

Her visionary leadership laid the groundwork for future generations to transform the Red Cross into a leading humanitarian organization. It brings together the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors to prevent emergencies and alleviate suffering across our country and around the world.

This video provides a brief history of the Red Cross.

Throughout the 1880s, Clara and her corps of a few hundred volunteers mobilized to help survivors of floods and famines, storms and outbreaks of disease. During the Spanish-American War, she led support activities for U.S. military forces in Cuba.

By 1904, the organization had taken on such crucial roles that it received a charter from the U.S. Congress, giving it official duties to support American armed forces and to provide disaster relief.

Cleveland-born Mable Thorp Boardman took over leadership of the American Red Cross in 1905 and a local chapter was founded in her home town. During her 44 years of involvement, Mabel was credited as being the “administrative genius” who presided over exponential growth of the organization and expanded its range of prevention and response activities.

As World War I spread across Europe, readiness-minded folks in Lorain, Elyria, Toledo and Erie and Wood counties formed chapters in 1916; the following year, chapters sprang up in Medina, Summit, Stark, Wayne, Trumbull, Mahoning, Portage, Ottawa, Sandusky, Huron, Hancock counties and the Muskingum Lakes area!

Late in the 20th century, Cleveland again provided leadership to the Red Cross – Steve Bullock. After 16 years as CEO of the greater Cleveland chapter, Bullock was tapped to serve as interim president of the American National Red Cross during 1998-99. He brought a wealth of experience to national headquarters, having worked for the Red Cross in military installations in the U.S., Europe and Southeast Asia as well as being executive director of the St. Paul, Minn., chapter.

Steve Bullock
Photo credit: Daniel Cima/American rRed Cross

Steve quickly outlined his “100-day plan” to enhance the organization’s strengths, support local chapters, strengthen international relationships and address problems in the blood services division. “It’s a matter of making sure we’re performing at an excellent level,” he said.

Local and global impact

As we mark this anniversary, the Northern Ohio Region of the Red Cross serves 5.3 million residents in 31 counties, where trained responders provide comfort, essentials like food and shelter, and support for folks to rebuild their lives after crises of all kinds – more than three times every 24 hours.

This video recaps 140 years of disaster responses.

Meanwhile, we’re collecting, testing and distributing blood and blood products for accident victims, surgery patients and those undergoing treatment for chronic conditions and life-threatening diseases. Most recently, we began free COVID-19 antibody testing on all blood donations.

Men and women in our armed forces, veterans, and their families and caregivers can turn to the Red Cross for emergency communications, mental wellness courses, deployment readiness briefings and  morale-boosting activities in military medical facilities here and abroad.

Through a diverse portfolio of classes, more than 4.5 million people a year receive Red Cross training in first aid, water safety, nurse assistant training and testing, along with other lifesaving skills. The Red Cross also offers free mobile apps that about 2 million people download each year, including our First Aid, Pet First Aid and Swim apps. 

And as part of the world’s largest humanitarian network, the Red Cross is one of 192 Red Cross and Red Crescent societies across the globe that respond to disasters, help families search for loved ones missing as a result of war, natural disaster or civil unrest, and work to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

How you can make a difference

American Red Cross humanitarian activities are only possible through the generosity of donors and volunteers, who comprise more than 90% of our workforce. Visit redcross.org to get involved by making a financial donation, volunteering, giving blood or taking a class to learn lifesaving skills.

Red Cross employees walk to raise funds, build friendships

By: Mary Williams, Events Specialist, American Red Cross

There is a certain something that drives every Red Cross volunteer. There is much to be said about the focused care they give to each disaster client, blood donor, military member/veteran/military family member from the first moment until the last.

That is not necessary a trait that you attribute to your co-workers.

But on April 30, four of my co-workers and I found ourselves at the Wooster office to (social distance style) walk the “last mile” of a 75-mile journey we had started together on April 1. The office had been identified as the central point to our scatter-shot lives, with each of us driving anywhere from 45-minutes to 2-hours to gather in celebration.

There were eight of us who walked 75-miles to promote the mission of the Red Cross (though only five of us could get together in Wooster); Erica van Pelt, Carolyn Wild, Sarah Leonhard, Staci Thomson, Emily Probst, Cheryl Wolfe, Maggie Lenhart, and myself. Through our own family and friend networks we earned a total of $1,510. And beyond that, we began to form a bond that came from encouraging each other each step of the way.

Each time I would think, ‘it’s cold and I don’t want to go out to walk two-miles’, there would be a picture of one co-worker or another, bundled up and outside. We shared pictures of our walking companions – dogs, children, and lots of sarcastically earnest gifs of encouragement. Little by little we learned more things about each other, that we would not have learned otherwise. Time and geography have long conspired to keep many of us perfect strangers, but these 75 miles have brought us closer together. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

And what amazes me the most about this group is that they truly don’t see what an amazing accomplishment it has been for each of them to push beyond what they do as part of their day-to-day work responsibilities, to further blur the lines of work-life and home-life by completely steeping themselves in that thing – that heart – that volunteers demonstrate. For each of these women, it seems that to work here, is to fully encompass the mission and values of the Red Cross as part of your own essence.

It’s just what they do.

It’s just what we do.

National Volunteer Week spotlight: Pete Ulrich remembered as dedicated trainer and great guy who saved lives

By: Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer

Everyone on the American Red Cross Transportation Specialist and Disaster Program teams knew Peter Ulrich simply as “Pete.” He was well known across Northern Ohio for being an excellent teacher with a natural teaching talent who trained countless volunteers for the Red Cross. Pete was based out of his hometown of Akron, Ohio, but his influence reached across the region. Volunteer transportation specialists deliver lifesaving blood products from Red Cross distribution facilities to hospitals. 

My first time meeting Pete was just over a year ago to learn my role as a transportation specialist. From the start, I was truly impressed with how professional, organized and genuine Pete was. We worked together for about four hours that night. Pete was not only an incredible trainer but he was a lot of fun to work with, hard to keep up with and had a quick-witted sense of humor. 

Over this past year, I would run into Pete while on my routes. He would take to time to say “hi,” ask how I was doing and offer to help if needed. Pete said two things that come to mind whenever I am working in the Akron Red Cross office and delivering to Akron General Hospital. He would say, “This is the world’s slowest elevator,” referring to the Akron Red Cross building each time we were in it. (He just wanted to keep moving!) Second, Pete was showing me around at Akron General Hospital and I feel he was starting to trust me because he said in a witty way, “You will learn really fast that I like to do things my own way,” meaning he had a creative style to get the job done. He made volunteering fun.

Sadly, Pete, age 63, passed away March 13. The retired high school band director and high school administrator was a lifelong learner. In retirement, he earned his Doctor of Education and continued to consult with colleagues. An enthusiastic volunteer, Pete served as an usher for the Akron Civic Theater and E.J. Thomas Hall before becoming a Red Cross volunteer.

“Pete was great guy. That is what everyone says about him that he has touched,” said Debbie Chitester, disaster program manager for the Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley Red Cross. “He was always someone who would go out of his way for someone. Even during COVID, I would see him there on Sundays making sure the vehicles were all set to go for the drivers. He always took that extra step. Pete trained many of the Biomed drivers, so his legacy will live on.”

“Pete Ulrich was a Red Cross hero. In his volunteer role, he saved lives every day. He took great pride in volunteering for the Red Cross and the transportation program,” said Shelby Beamer, transportation coordinator for the Red Cross Northern Ohio Region. “The organization will forever be grateful for having Pete Ulrich on our team and his hard work and dedication in helping grow the transportation program in Northern Ohio.”

Pete, you will be missed because you were a good human being, dedicated to your family, an educator, volunteer and hero. In his obituary, Pete suggested taking time each day to communicate with someone you love, be they near or far.

Your time and talent can make a real difference in people’s lives. To learn more about volunteering, visit redcross.org/volunteer.

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

Then and now: Celebrating Black History Month, recognizing African American contributions to Red Cross

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

February 1, 2021- It’s 1860, and there’s an outcry from voters who can’t accept the results of that year’s election. Abraham Lincoln is declared winner, without carrying a single southern state. Before his inauguration, seven southern states secede from the union, followed by others soon thereafter. Civil war ensues. 

As the Civil War concludes in 1865, Clara Barton is commissioned by Abraham Lincoln to locate missing soldiers. She sends 63,000 letters and locates 22,000 missing men. The American Red Cross is founded 16 years later in 1865 in Washington, D.C., and is still in charge of contacting armed service members.

With Lincoln gone, Reconstruction effectively fails, and thousands of freed slaves are forced to return to the plantations and their former owners. Many stayed along the eastern coastline. In 1893, the country’s largest recorded hurricane hit the coastal islands with a storm surge of 10 to 12 feet and 20-foot waves on top of that, killing up to 3,500 inhabitants, 92% of which were Black.

Clara Barton answered the call to this huge disaster, the biggest to date for the Red Cross. The U.S. Congress refused to provide any aid short of some seeds, tents and a couple deep-draft boats. All the funds to care for 30,000 displaced persons had to come via requests for donations from Clara, who got newspapers to run the story across the entire eastern half of the U.S.

Frances Reed Elliott Davis

Possibly motivated by Clara’s efforts, 10-year-old Frances Reed Elliott Davis was growing up in North Carolina and had lived through that storm. Despite being orphaned, she taught herself to read and write. Wanting to become a nurse, she entered nursing school in 1910. She was the first African American to pass the final board exams in Washington, D.C. Eight years later, she became the first officially recognized African American nurse to be accepted into the Red Cross Nursing Service.

That same year, Red Cross nurses combated the worldwide H1N1 influenza epidemic. With the returning injured troops from World War I, and the raging pandemic, Red Cross volunteers grew to 20 million adults and 11 million junior members. 

Later, in Michigan, Davis helped organize the first training school for African American nurses at the Dunbar Hospital. In the 1940s, Davis established a childcare facility that caught the attention of first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who helped plan for and fund the center.

Mary McLeod Bethune

About this time, Mary McLeod Bethune was serving as an advisor to President Roosevelt. She became the highest ranking African American woman in government when the president named her director of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration, making her the first African American woman to head a federal agency.

Bethune was one of five committee members who made recommendations on the blood plasma project, the use of African American staff in overseas service clubs, the enrollment of African American nurses, and the representation of African Americans on local and national Red Cross committees and staff departments.

Dr. Jerome Holland

During his time as president of Hampton University in 1964, Dr. Holland became a member of the American Red Cross Board of Governors. He served as a member until he resigned in 1970 to become the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden. He was the second African American to lead a delegation in any European nation.

Dr. Holland was later appointed by President Jimmy Carter to be the chairman of the American Red Cross Board of Governors in 1979, and was the first African American to hold this position. Because of his commitment to the Red Cross, he was appointed again in 1982.

While serving on the board, Dr. Holland showed a passion for blood research and took the lead in consolidating growing laboratory operations for the Red Cross Blood Services program. He also encouraged Red Cross regions to integrate their volunteers so important services could be extended to the entire community, regardless of a person’s ethnicity or background.

We salute them

History has a way of repeating itself. Whether it is a pandemic flu, a giant, slow-moving hurricane or the need to improve blood research, the same needs are still being met by the Red Cross today. To contribute to the cause, click here. To volunteer and do your part to help others in need, click here.

Other African American contributions

To read more about the contributions of other African Americans to the American Red Cross, you might like these articles:

Steve Bullock – Acting President of American Red Cross in 1999

Frederick Douglass – Friend of Clara Barton

Gwen T. Jackson – American Red Cross Board of Governors

Dr. Charles Drew –  Blood Bank Pioneer

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

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

Red Cross board member donates plasma to help others recover from COVID-19

By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

January 25, 2021- Over the past year, our lives have been consumed by news and updates regarding the coronavirus. We have experienced school closures, canceled vacations, social distancing and mask wearing.

Many of us however have either experienced the virus firsthand or know someone who had COVID-19. For Debbi Grinstein, both experiences are true.

Debbi, a trust officer for Farmers Trust Company, previously served as the board president for the Lake to River Chapter and is currently a board member for the American Red Cross of Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley. In addition to serving on the board of directors, Debbi is also a Disaster Action Team volunteer, assisting residents following a local disaster.

Debbi Grinstein

On December 10, 2020, Debbi began to experience postnasal drip, feeling achy and had a slight fever. That is when she found out that she would join the list of millions of Americans who had COVID-19.

Despite the diagnosis, Debbi considered herself lucky because despite the slight symptoms, she was able to continue to work and exercise at home, and her recovery was quick.

In addition to herself, Debbi experienced the virus through a loved one, as her son, who lives in New York City, also was diagnosed with COVID-19.

During her recovery process, Debbi decided right away that she was going to donate convalescent plasma once she was fully recovered, to try to help others overcome the virus because “it was the right thing to do.”

Convalescent plasma comes from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus. Plasma is the part of blood that remains after red and white blood cells are removed. It is rich in proteins and antibodies. Hospitals and research labs around the country are working to see if these antibodies can help the immune system fight COVID-19.

On January 15, Debbi attended her scheduled appointment at the Akron Donation Center to donate her valuable convalescent plasma.

To those who have recovered from COVID-19 but are on the fence about whether they should donate their convalescent plasma, Debbi has a message for you: “Convalescent plasma is helping a lot of people and it does not hurt when you donate.”

Those who have received a verified COVID-19 diagnosis, have fully recovered and have been symptom free for at least 14 days are urged to sign up to give convalescent plasma by completing the donor information form HERE.

To hear more about Debbi’s COVID-19 journey and about her convalescent plasma donation, be sure to follow our Twitter, Facebook and YouTube pages for an upcoming video conversation with her.