“Tattoos!” A story and reminder about blood donation and tattoos for National Tattoo Day

By Christy Peters, American Red Cross Regional Communications Manager

1947 – Grandma & Grandpa’s engagement picture – photo courtesy of Christy Peters

One of my favorite stories about my grandparents happened on one of their early dates. They both lived in Canton and had recently started dating. One night, when my grandfather was driving my grandmother home, they had car trouble. Luckily for both of them, my grandfather worked as a mechanic. He pulled the car over to the side of the road and got out to inspect under the hood.

Grandma got out with him and once the hood was open, Grandpa began rolling up his sleeves to get to work. Suddenly he heard my grandmother scream, “TATTOOS!” Apparently, in all their time together, Grandpa had always worn long sleeves and had not revealed his two very prominent arm tattoos, courtesy of his time in the Army during World War II.

Grandma was shocked but I think most of her reaction had to do with what her parents, my great grandparents, were going to say when they found out she was dating a man with tattoos. Thankfully, everyone got over the scandalous tattoos and my grandparents went on to be married for 70 years until my grandmother passed away in 2019.

You’re probably thinking, “Great story but what does it have to do with the American Red Cross?” Well, if you didn’t know, July 17 is National Tattoo Day, a day that “recognizes the history, culture, and artists dedicated to etching ink permanently on the skin.” Unfortunately, many people think the Red Cross is just as shocked by tattoos as my grandmother was that night many years ago. People often tell me they can’t donate blood because they have a tattoo, or that they recently got a tattoo and think they must wait years before giving again.

Grandpa and his tattoos in 1952 – photo courtesy of Christy Peters

I’m writing this blog to let all of you with gorgeous ink know that none of that is true! In Ohio, there isn’t a deferral if your tattoo was applied with a sterile needle and fresh ink in a state regulated facility. If you received your tattoo in a different state, you can find out if that state requires you to wait to give here. And, even if you do have to wait, the deferral period is only three months, not years.

If you’ve not been donating because of tattoos, now is the perfect time to begin. During the month of June, the Northern Ohio Region collected nearly 2,000 fewer donations than needed to help meet patient needs. Your donation now will help us avoid a summer shortage. So, just like my grandpa did on that date, roll up those sleeves proudly and show off your tattoos while you help save lives! Find a drive near you and make an appointment today!

Posted by Ryan Lang, American Red Cross volunteer and board member

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Red Cross aims to increase African American blood donations to combat sickle cell disease and meet critical need

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross Volunteer

Recently, I was talking with visitors at a family health fair, explaining the always- urgent need for blood donations. I was especially targeting African-Americans, asking what they know about sickle cell disease.

Interestingly, their responses ranged from a blank look to, “Yes, I lost a cousin to sickle cell.”

Keith Lofton of Olmsted Falls at a recent blood drive in Rocky River

Apparently this is not unusual, which is why the American Red Cross is leading a national drive to raise awareness and recruit more blood donors who are Black. This is because their blood is uniquely suited to help patients with sickle cell disease live full and comfortable lives.

“As an organization dedicated to alleviating suffering, the Red Cross is committed to the health and well-being of all communities, and a diverse blood supply is critical to improving health outcomes for all patients – especially those with sickle cell disease,” said Gail McGovern, CEO and president of the Red Cross. “For someone facing a sickle cell crisis, a blood transfusion can make a lifesaving difference.”

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a hereditary condition that can be life threatening. It leads to anemia (a shortage of red blood cells), causing fatigue and possible damage to blood vessels and vital organs. It often causes severe pain that can last for hours or days; it can even lead to disabling strokes.

In the U.S., it’s estimated that more than 100,000 people have SCD and roughly 1,000 babies are born with the disease every year. SCD knows no national boundaries, which is why June 19 is designated World Sickle Cell Day.

Blood transfusions from individuals of the same race or similar ethnicity and blood type are the most effective way to help patients experiencing a sickle cell crisis. Since the majority of people with sickle cell are of African descent, blood donations from Black individuals are critical in helping those suffering from this disease.

Sabrina Spikes works full time for the Red Cross to rally African-American civic and faith-based organizations to recruit and educate.

“It’s vital that we get the word out as much as possible, to get more blood donors who are Black,” she said. “Here in northern Ohio, we’ve seen an increase (in donor numbers), but we still have work to do. Especially in the summer, when blood donations tend to fall off.”

In addition to recruitment, Sabrina’s other priority is education: preparing potential donors for a successful experience at a blood drive.

“Preparation is key,” she said. “Drinking plenty of water and eating iron-rich foods is important. And cutting out caffeinated beverages — coffee, tea, sodas — that slow the absorption of iron helps cut the deferral rate of donors, especially African-American women.”

Sabrina herself carries the trait for sickle cell, although she does not have the disease. It was important for her to know that: If the father of her three children had also had the trait, the children would suffer from the life-long condition. Sadly, too many babies are born with SCD.

The need for blood is not limited to patients with sickle cell disease. Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs a blood transfusion, including women or girls experiencing childbirth complications, people fighting cancer, surgery patients and accident victims.

Bridget C. Miller Harper of Cleveland at the Browns Blood Drive in July, 2021

Fifty-one percent of people who are Black have type O (positive or negative) blood, in comparison to approximately 45% of white individuals. Type O blood is most often needed by hospitals to help patients, so donors who are Black play a critical role in meeting the constant need for blood.

Blood products have a limited shelf l-life and volunteer donors are the only source of blood and platelets for patients in need of lifesaving transfusions.

“My call to action is, schedule a blood donation appointment by visiting  RedCrossBlood.org, downloading the  Blood Donor App  or calling 1-800-RED CROSS,” Sabrina said.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer
Posted by Ryan Lang, American Red Cross volunteer and board member

Rock, Roll, and Ride with the Red Cross this World Blood Donor Day

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

June 14th is World Blood Donor Day, and the American Red Cross Can’t Help giving blood donors a chance to get All Shook Up, whether rocking and rolling with the legacy of Elvis at Graceland or on rides at Cedar Point.

The World Health Organization (WHO) created World Blood Donor Day to raise global awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products for transfusion, highlight the critical contribution of volunteer blood donors to national health systems, and help support and expand blood donor organizations’ programs. The WHO states, “Becoming a regular voluntary blood donor is a simple but selfless step that everyone can take to strengthen their communities, support local health systems and save lives.”

The Red Cross, which supplies about 40% of the U.S. blood supply, typically sees a drop in blood donations during the summer, but the need for blood does not take a break. On average, someone in the U.S. needs blood every two seconds, including new moms, premature babies, cancer patients and accident victims. Each day, the Red Cross needs to collect about 12,500 blood donations to meet the needs of patients at about 2,500 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country.

And blood donors can now celebrate providing the gift of life with roller coasters and rock and roll!

In addition to helping save lives, through August 4th, generous blood donors at select blood drives in Northern Ohio will receive a free ticket to Cedar Point, while supplies last. To find a blood drive with this promotion, enter sponsor code “CEDARPOINT” when searching here or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.

And throughout the U.S., the Red Cross is celebrating Elvis Presley–a blood donor himself who left a legacy of generosity and community service–rock and roll, and the new film, Elvis, with a chance to win a VIP trip for two to Memphis and Graceland! Through June 30th, those who come in to give blood will be automatically entered for a chance to win the trip, which includes round-trip airfare for two to Memphis, a three-night stay at The Guest House at Graceland and Elvis Entourage VIP tour, courtesy of Graceland, and $500 gift card for expenses, plus a custom-wrapped Gibson Epiphone guitar! Blood donors will also be sent a $5 e-gift card to a merchant of their choice. More information and terms and conditions are here.

Please visit redcrossblood.org to find a local blood drive. A blood donor app is also available, which makes it easy for donors to schedule and manage appointments, track the lifetime impact of donations, view health history information, and earn rewards. It is available at the above website, texting BLOODAPP to 90999, or searching “American Red Cross” in app stores.

Please help celebrate the gift of life, summer fun, the spirit of rock and roll, Elvis, and World Blood Donor Day by scheduling a donation. And thank you, thank you very much.

Blood donor hits goal set 18 years ago

By Tim Poe, Red Cross volunteer

Erin Muzechuk – Photo credit: CynthiaElaine

In April, Erin Muzechuk arrived at an American Red Cross blood drive set up in New Philadelphia’s New Town Mall and accomplished a goal she set 18 years ago, donating 10 gallons of blood.

This journey began when Erin was just 17 and saw a blood drive poster at Buckeye Career Center. She felt it could be a way to help others. Later, she watched a news story about a man donating his 10th gallon, thought she could do that, too, and hoped to inspire others to donate as well.

At age 35, Erin has reached that goal while inspiring many and saving hundreds of lives.

I asked Erin how she felt upon reaching her goal. “I’m happy that I was able to help so many people,” she said. “When I first started donating, I learned that each pint has the potential to help three people! Ten gallons means I helped up to as many of 240 people! I didn’t realize that until recently.”

Erin plans to continue donating blood but does not have another goal in mind.

Erin spoke of her fantastic experiences donating blood and helping people over the last 18 years. She speaks especially fondly of getting to know Jane Jarvis at Union Hospital, part of the Cleveland Clinic, in Dover, Ohio. “She’s a special lady,” Erin recalled of the hospital’s blood drive program leader.

Erin’s First Gallon Award

Erin also spoke highly of her experience with the Red Cross. Her favorite memory is the shock she felt upon being recognized for donating her first gallon when she was 19. She added, “I’m surprised and honored again to hear from the American Red Cross now that I’m 35!”

“We are so thankful for Erin and her commitment to regularly give the gift of life,” said Kim Kroh, Executive Director of the Red Cross of Heartland, Stark and Muskingum Lakes. “Without donors like her, we could not meet the needs of patients across northern Ohio.”

In addition to donating blood, Erin enjoys working at Litty’s Cakes & Cookies in New Philadelphia and spending time with her family and friends, whom she says she loves very much.

For those considering donating blood for the first time, Erin advised, “It’s just a little pinch in the arm, and it doesn’t hurt or take a lot of your time to donate. And you will help save a life!”

If you, too, are inspired by Erin and would like to donate blood, please visit redcrossblood.org.

A Times-Reporter article on Erin’s achievement is here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, Red Cross volunteer

One Man’s Dedication: The Joseph DeRosa Legacy

By Sue Wilson, Red Cross Community Volunteer

The lifeblood of the Red Cross is its volunteers, and in particular, its blood donors. Joseph DeRosa was the definition of lifeblood, having donated an astounding 165 pints of blood in his lifetime. 

Joseph DeRosa, lifelong blood donor

Valerie Stanley shared the story of her grandpa and his dedication to the American Red Cross and its blood donor program last month. She and her children, Joseph’s great grandchildren, Eva and Isaac delivered a check to the Red Cross for $1,860 in his name. 

Joseph DeRosa was a dedicated high school math/psychics/chemistry teacher for over 30 years. After retirement, Valerie said she and her brother spent their summers at their grandparent’s house. One day, years before he passed, her grandpa told her he had something very important to share with her. He opened a cupboard and took a white box from the shelf. It was filled with pins from the Red Cross honoring his many blood donations over the years. “Here are all my Red Cross pins,” he said. “I want you to make sure that when I die, they are buried with me.”   

It was not something Valerie wanted to think about at the time. “My grandpa was one of those people who went through so much in his life, faced health challenges and got through them, and to me he was invincible,” she said. When he passed on March 5, 2021, the first thing that came to her mind was her grandpa’s request. She went straight to his house to get that box of pins, which had continued to grow in number. 

The Red Cross recommends donors wait 56 days between blood donations. Joseph kept a calendar for the year, with the first day he could donate again marked, and he always went right away to make his donation. Valerie said she never knew exactly when her grandpa’s commitment to blood donation began, or if there was a particular reason behind it. “He knew it was something he could give, to help others in need. If he could convince the world to donate blood, he would!”

Valeria, Isaac, and Eva

If there was a word to describe her grandpa, Valerie said it would be: dedicated.  “He was passionate in everything he did in life, from his dedication to his family, to the students he taught in his many years as a teacher, to his volunteering for the Special Olympics for over 35 years, to the Red Cross.”   

Joseph DeRosa is survived by his wife of 66 years, Patti DeRosa, his 2 sons, Joe DeRosa and Bob DeRosa and his legacy of grand and great grandkids. 

“I want to make sure that when I die, they are buried with me.” – Joseph DeRosa

“After his passing, I remember reading comments on his online obit and saw so many of his former students commenting how he changed their lives. So many have successful careers that they attribute to him and I know he would be so proud of that legacy.” 

Every blood donation can help save up to three lives. Blood donations are used for patients in need of surgery, cancer treatment and transfusions for blood loss from traumatic injuries. The lives Joseph DeRosa has saved are in the thousands. Can you imagine, if everyone had such dedication to blood donation?

Learn more about blood donation and where you can donate HERE.

More than 260 donations made at the Give from the Heart at annual blood drive

For 23 years, the Give from the Heart blood drive has been a lifesaving tradition in Northern Ohio. This year’s event was held last Tuesday, Feb. 8 at the Cleveland Marriott East in Warrensville Heights.

This blood drive came at a vital time, as the Red Cross continues to struggle with a national blood crisis. The current nationwide shortage has been further impacted by winter weather across the country, with about 600 blood drives cancelled forcing 20,000 donations to go uncollected.


Across the Northern Ohio Region, 21 blood drives were cancelled Thursday, February 3 leaving more than 730 donations uncollected.

The more than 260 donations made at the Give from the Heart blood drive will potentially help up to 800 patients.

We encourage donors to make an appointment for future blood drives by visiting redcrossblood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), or downloading the free Red Cross Blood Donor App.

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including face masks for donors and staff, regardless of vaccination status – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance.

If you are not able to give blood, the Red Cross also needs blood drive volunteers and blood transportation specialists to support critical blood collections. Blood drive volunteers play an important role by greeting, registering, answering questions and providing information to blood donors throughout the donation process. Blood transportation specialists provide a critical link between blood donors and blood recipients by delivering blood to hospitals our local communities. To learn more and sign-up, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.

Vaccinated and ready to travel?

Here are some things to check before you leave Northern Ohio

By: Doug Bardwell, Red Cross Volunteer

Travel restrictions have just been lifted for those who want to go to Europe, so it appears that travel season is about to switch into high gear here in Northern Ohio.  If you are planning a trip out of the country, there are a number of points you’ll want to check to ensure that it is a safe and enjoyable experience.   

Does your hospitalization cover you when you travel?  Some only work in this country, and some only with certain health organizations. Here’s a good reference. 

Driving? Will your car insurance cover you when you cross into Canada (probably) or into Mexico (probably not). Be sure to call your agent and verify. You also need to check if you’ll be renting a car – most local policies don’t cover rentals abroad.

And don’t forget to check very specifically about your cellphone rates outside the country. Many people didn’t check first, only to find out that international rates added thousands to their cellphone bill.   

Check your credit cards. Some issue surcharges for international transactions, while others do not. Also, avoid travelers’ cash exchanges at airports, which usually offer less advantageous conversion rates than banks in town.

Be sure to notify your credit card company about when you plan to be out of town (even in this country), so your cards are not held up pending “fraud protection” while you try to prove it’s really you buying shoes in Guadalajara.

Are you up to date on your vaccinations, malaria shots, tetanus shots, etc. Let your county health care professional know where you’ll be traveling and see if any additional shots are required. Here’s the link to Cuyahoga County’s board of health, but each county should have their own.

Are there any travel advisories issued by our State Department for the countries you plan to visit? You can sign up there for travel advisories.

Before you go, photograph or scan your passport, immunization record, any important medical information and emergency numbers for your credit cards and bank. Put it on a small USB flash drive that you can hide in your socks, just in case you are robbed.  Also leave a duplicate of the information with a friend or relative who is not traveling with you.

Lastly, before you go, make a blood donation appointment.  There’s a severe shortage right now, and the need is great.  If you’ve never donated before, you can load the Red Cross Blood app on your phone, and shortly after your donation, you’ll know what blood type you are. Then, while you are traveling, rest easy, knowing your donation can save up to three lives.

Click here for a printable checklist when you start your travel planning.

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

Blood donations to treat sickle cell disease are needed

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

September 25, 2020- September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month, and the need for blood donations to assist the 100,000 Americans with sickle cell disease is especially critical this year. While the disease does not have a cure, blood transfusions are one of the most effective treatments. The American Red Cross requests anyone who can help with a lifesaving blood donation to do so.

Sickle cell disease, which mostly affects those of African and Latino descent, causes red blood cells to be hard and crescent-shaped. Blood has difficulty flowing smoothly and carrying oxygen to the rest of the body, which may lead to severe pain, tissue and organ damage, acute anemia and even strokes.

As Christy Peters, External Communications Manager for Red Cross’ Northern Ohio Biomedical Services, reported in June, blood donations from African Americans are vital in treating sickle cell disease, as blood must be closely matched to reduce the risk of complications. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, she noted, “the number of African Americans donating blood with the Red Cross has dropped by more than half.”

Julie Broze at MetroHealth Medical Center’s Hematology/Oncology Department also mentioned the importance of blood donors in treating sickle cell disease. While MetroHealth has not had its blood supply for sickle cell patients hindered, she said more people donating is vital, as the demographic can be difficult to match. African Americans who do not have the sickle cell trait or disease are especially encouraged to donate, as their blood has a greater chance to have needed antigens and be a better match.

For a personal perspective, I spoke with Demeatrice Nance, whose daughter Makenzie, now 16, has sickle cell disease. Both Demeatrice and Makenzie are effective advocates in educating people about sickle cell, the need for blood donations, perseverance and helping others.

Makenzie has given a number of talks, especially to fellow young people, on sickle cell and the need to donate blood. Demeatrice, a Certified Community Healthcare Worker for the Ohio Sickle Cell and Health Association, has performed vital roles in a number of efforts, including the largest African American blood drive in Ohio.

Their outlooks are inspiring. While they have faced sickle cell disease—and its personal and emotional challenges—for 16 years, they focus on being positive and doing what is needed. This remains true even during the current pandemic. Demeatrice said there is a greater need for blood, but many are currently afraid to give, so she and her daughter are continuing to educate and help.

An avid football fan, Makenzie adapts a coach’s saying that, when you get hit, keep your legs moving as you can still gain yardage. Makenzie says we can learn from that, whether donating blood, facing sickle cell, cancer, COVID-19 or other hardships. Even with the hits we are experiencing, we need to keep going, as we’ll help ourselves and others gain a bit more. So please, consider donating blood.

For another powerful perspective on sickle cell disease, please read Glinda Dames Fincher’s story here.

More information on joining the fight is available here.

Information on donating blood and Coronavirus is available here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

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.