By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer
Everyday people across the Northern Ohio Region of the American Red Cross go to neighborhood drives to give blood. Several drives are scheduled this week. Throughout the year, many donors share their reasons for donating, and explain why others should consider donating blood. The stories they share are inspiring, touching and sometimes, their reasoning is simple.
We wanted to share just a few of the reasons why our blood donors made their first donation, and continue to give blood.
As we wrap up 2022 and look forward to 2023, consider adding “donate blood” on your New Year’s Resolution list. Or if you have donated in the past, put it on your to-do list for next year. Whatever your motivation, whatever your reason, we hope you share it with your family, friends, colleagues and if you feel so inclined, please share why you donate with us. Your stories and those of the individuals who receive blood continue to inspire the Red Cross every day.
Every donation, no matter how small, helps save lives, as #HelpCantWait
By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer
Tomorrow, November 29th is Giving Tuesday, a day which encourages and celebrates local giving, generosity, and humanity. This year, the need for charitable giving and the American Red Cross mission is as vital as ever. 2022 has been a year of crisis for families and communities here in Northern Ohio and throughout the world.
For this year’s Giving Tuesday, the Red Cross is issuing a matching gift opportunity for all donations made at redcross.org. Sponsored by the Coca-Cola Company, all donations made – regardless of designation – will be matched dollar for dollar up to $250,000.
Even small donations have a major impact. A donation made through redcross.org can be as little as $10, yet provides tremendous hope in a time of crisis or helps prevent disaster. A few examples include providing a smoke alarm and fire safety education; aiding someone to learn CPR; assisting a family with a meal, supplies, and safe place to stay after a home fire; helping someone receive a lifesaving blood transfusion; and aiding a family contact a deployed member of the military during an emergency.
In addition to donating at redcross.org, you can text “REDCROSS” to 90999 and give $10 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief, which will appear on your wireless bill, or call 1-800- HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669).
As a Red Cross volunteer in various capacities, I can attest to the impact these donations have on people’s lives, as I have often seen the moment when people who have experienced a disaster realize they have support, that others care, that they will be able to recover and move on.
And help is needed. The climate crisis is increasing the frequency and intensity of natural disasters. So far in 2022, the Red Cross has responded to 15 billion-dollar disasters, more than twice the number that struck annually two decades ago. Internationally, global conflict and Africa’s hunger crisis have devastated millions, and the Red Cross has provided humanitarian aid in more than 108 countries this year.
Last January, the Red Cross experienced its worst blood shortage in over a decade, due to ongoing collection challenges and varied hospital demand during the pandemic. While the crisis was overcome, thanks to generous blood donors, the need for blood is constant. Hospitals in northern Ohio, as everywhere, need a reliable supply of blood to aid those in an accident, parents with complicated childbirths, individuals battling cancer, and people with sickle cell disease.
Fall is here, and along with it comes flu season. If you are a regular blood donor, you may have questions about the flu shot and if it will affect your ability to donate blood (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t!). Even if you donate blood less frequently or you have not donated before, the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio answers some common questions about getting the flu vaccine and shares what you need to know about donating blood this fall and winter.
Why should people get their annual flu vaccine?
Getting your yearly flu shot is the best line of defense against the flu. If you do get sick, your symptoms might not be as severe if you are vaccinated.
While some people may think getting the flu is no big deal, it can be serious – even for those who are healthy.
Vaccination to prevent influenza is especially important for people who are at high risk for developing serious complications from the flu. Members of their household or those who are in close, frequent contact with individuals who are high risk should get vaccinated.
Who should get the flu vaccine?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone six months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season, with rare exceptions.
There are different flu vaccines approved for different age groups and for some people, like those who are pregnant or have certain chronic health conditions.
If you have any questions, talk to your primary care provider.
What do I need to know about the flu vaccine and donating blood?
Getting the flu vaccine helps to support a healthy community and ensure that patients have access to lifesaving blood products year round.
When you get a flu shot, you don’t need to defer or delay your next blood donation.
If you do get the flu, it is important to wait until you no longer exhibit symptoms and have recovered completely before attempting to donate.
Can I get my flu shot and COVID-19 shot at the same time?
It is safe to get your flu and COVID-19 vaccination shots at the same time.
Talk to your health care provider to see if you are eligible to get your COVID booster or if you have any questions.
Where can I get a flu vaccine?
There are several places that offer flu shots in our community. You can check with your local pharmacy or schedule an appointment with your primary care provider’s office to get your vaccine. Additionally, some local county public health departments may offer flu vaccine clinics. Check your local county health department’s website for more information.
How frequently can you donate blood?
Have you considered donating blood this year? If so, you should know that you can donate more than once per year. You can provide whole blood donations every eight weeks (56 days), up to six times per year. You must wait 16 weeks (112 days) between Power Red donations. Platelet donors can give every seven days, up to 24 times per year. Plasma donors can give every 28 days, up to 13 times per year. As a thank-you, all who come to give Oct. 16-31, 2022, will receive a $10 e-Gift Card by email to a merchant of choice.
The Red Cross holds blood drives across Northern Ohio regularly. You can help save lives by giving blood. To find an upcoming blood drive near you, visit www.redcross.org/give-blood.
Edited By Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer
Posted by Ryan Lang, American Red Cross board member and volunteer
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.
“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.
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.
By Theresa Carter, guest blogger and proud supporter of the American Red Cross of Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley
In the U.S., it is estimated that over 100,000 people – the majority of whom are of African descent – have sickle cell disease and may require blood transfusions throughout their lifetime to help manage their disease.
The American Red Cross has launched a national initiative to grow the number of blood donors who are Black to help patients with sickle cell disease and improve health outcomes.
Sickle cell disease is an enduring – and often invisible – health disparity in the U.S. Despite the discovery of the disease more than a century ago, there has been fewer health resources available to help those currently suffering from sickle cell disease in comparison to similar diseases.
The Red Cross currently provides sickle cell trait screening on all donations from self- identified African American donors. This additional screening helps the Red Cross identify compatible blood types more quickly to help patients with sickle cell and provides our African American donors an additional health insight during a time when health information has never been more important.
This cause is near and dear to my heart because both my daughters have sickle beta thalassemia disease, a minor form of sickle cell. You see, I have a sickle trait and their father has the thalassemia trait. We had no clue until our children were born that we had these traits and that our girls would have this disease. Therefore, screening is so very important…. just to know; to understand the cause and then educate ourselves so that we can be our best advocates if and when the time arises for medical care.
Please take action today and schedule a blood donation appointment by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Blood Donor App or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.
Editor’s note: Regular blood transfusions are critical to managing extreme pain and life threatening complications faced by many. Unfortunately, they may develop an immune response against blood from donors that is not closely matched to their own. However, because most individuals who are Black have unique structures on their red blood cells that are not often found in other donor populations, 1 in 3 African American blood donors is a match for people with sickle cell disease.
Sickle cell disease distorts soft, round blood cells and turns them hard and crescent-shaped, which can cause severe pain. “When cells harden, they can get caught in blood vessels, potentially leading to stroke and organ failure,” says Dr. James Westra, Regional Medical Director. “Transfusions provide healthy blood cells, unblocking blood vessels and delivering oxygen, minimizing crises patients with sickle cell may face.”
Seasonal changes can trigger pain crises for those battling sickle cell – possibly increasing the need for lifesaving blood transfusions. As summer ends, book a time to give blood by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). As a thankyou, all who come to give through Sept. 18 will get an exclusive Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last.
Posted by Ryan Lang, American Red Cross board member and volunteer
By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer
World Humanitarian Day is a day when we are all encouraged to come together and advocate for the well-being, survival and dignity of people who have experienced or are experiencing crisis around the world. This year’s theme from the United Nations is “It Takes A Village”—reminding us that whenever there are people in crisis, there are others who are there to help them. This year, they shine a light on the hundreds of thousands of volunteers, professionals and crisis-affected people who deliver urgent health care, shelter, food, protection, water and much more.
It’s a perfect day to recognize the thousands of dedicated volunteers and workers of the American Red Cross. They deliver lifesaving assistance every hour of every day, responding to an average of more than 60,000 disasters every year.
As we reflect on the meaning of this day, we are also encouraged to take action as humanitarians ourselves. This World Humanitarian Day, the Northern Ohio Region of the Red Cross has five ways you can give back and help to make the world a better place.
Donate Blood Did you know that every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood or platelets? Giving back by donating blood can help ensure those who are in need of blood transfusions, including individuals undergoing surgery, cancer treatment, treatment for chronic illness and traumatic injuries.
If you are able to donate blood, it is a relatively easy process – It only takes about one hour and 15 minutes, with the actual donation of whole blood taking approximately eight to ten minutes. Individuals can donate blood more than once per year. you can donate every In most states, donors can start donating at age 17 and some states allowing 16-year-olds to donate with a signed parental consent form. You also must be at least 110 pounds and be in good health. Blood donor drives are held at locations throughout Northern Ohio. To find an upcoming blood drive near you, click here.
Volunteer Volunteering your time for a cause you believe in can have a huge impact on your community and the world. The Red Cross offers a variety of ways that you can give back depending on your skills, interests and time available. In fact, 90% of the Red Cross workforce are volunteers. They support areas such as blood drives, blood donation transports, health, mental health and spiritual needs, administrative support roles, supporting our armed forces and working with those who affected by natural disasters.
Make a Donation Many non-profit organizations rely on generous donations from supporters. For many organizations, every dollar donated makes a difference. Some organizations, like the Red Cross, provide other ways for individuals to donate in addition to financial contributions.
Learn a Lifesaving Skill The Red Cross has been teaching emergency and safety training for more than a century. You can learn first aid, be trained in administering CPR or using an AED, to be prepared for when a need for these skills arises. You can review and sign up for a class here.
Advocate Advocacy is an important way you can be a humanitarian. In order to advocate, it is equally important to educate yourself on the topics, organizations or causes you would like to advance. Here are a few simple ways you can get started.
Follow organizations on social media. For example, you can follow the Red Cross and the Northern Ohio Region of the Red Cross on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and TikTok just to name a few. Not only do they post facts and updates about the work that they are doing, but they also provide links for more information. Participate in events like Turn and Test and other events that help to spread the word about a particular cause. Share information with friends and family and learn about causes that they are passionate about.
Read about the work of three Red Cross humanitarians here.
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.
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!”
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.
“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.
Richard Gundelach donates platelets every two weeks, and on March 11, 2022, he reached a milestone: 600 platelet units donated.
His wife Carol baked a carrot cake to mark the occasion.
“Compared to giving (whole) blood, it’s easier,” Richard said after the donation. “People need it.”
Platelets are cell fragments in our blood that form clots and stop or prevent bleeding. They can be essential to helping patients survive surgeries such as organ transplants, and to fight cancer, chronic diseases and traumatic injuries.
During the 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.
Platelets are always in short supply because they only have a shelf life of five days. Every 15 seconds, someone needs platelets.
Encouraged by a friend, Richard began donating platelets during a time of unemployment 27 years ago. He’s retired now, and he wants to continue giving regularly.
His new goal: to donate 1,000 units of platelets.
When he achieves that goal, Carol may need to bake a bigger cake!
Donors can make an appointment to give platelets, whole blood or plasma by visiting redcrossblood.org, by calling 1-800-RED CROSS, or by installing the Red Cross blood app on their smartphones.
Edited by Glenda Bogar. American Red Cross volunteer
March 23rd is the eighth annual American Red Cross Giving Day, when communities come together to raise awareness about our critical disaster relief mission and fund our lifesaving work across the country. As recent events show, the Red Cross mission and services are critically needed, as #HelpCantWait.
As I reported earlier this month, Disaster Action Team (DAT) responses in our region increased by over 30% in February, mainly due to home fires, and March has continued to be exceptionally busy. Nationally, the Red Cross responded to more than 15,900 home fires since January 1, providing help to almost 60,000.
In addition, climate change, global instability, and the effects of the pandemic will continue to pose challenges for all humanitarian services. Challenges that, with your help, the Red Cross will rise to meet.
On a personal note, as a disaster responder I have seen the benefits of Red Cross services. I often saw the relief on people’s faces when we arrived after a home fire, knowing they would have help recovering. And, as assistance was provided, I also frequently saw human resiliency and signs of hope returning. Such moments occur, on average, more than three times a day in Northern Ohio and are made possible by donors and volunteers.
Here are some examples of what a financial gift can provide:
$3: one comfort kit containing hygiene items.
$15: one smoke alarm installation with fire safety education.
$50: a full day of food and shelter for one person.
$135: one smoke alarm and fire safety education for a hearing-impaired person.
$150: travel, meals, and shelter for one day for a deployed Red Cross disaster relief, health, or mental health worker.
$200: a full day of food and shelter to a family of four. Includes the cost of Red Cross workers to provide this service.
$350: the daily cost to deploy an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV).
$605: financial assistance for a family impacted by a local disaster, like a home fire. This helps the family purchase food, lodging, clothing, and other critical needs.
$4,000: a Sound the Alarm event. Includes installing smoke alarms and providing a fire safety package, deploying an ERV for the day, and lunch for volunteers. Average events install around 200 alarms.
Last month the blood supply was in “crisis.” This month it’s rated “vulnerable.” Neither of those are optimal – the latter being only incrementally better. Bottom line = we still need everyone to donate if they are able.
With relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, doctors are once again allowing elective surgery. Don’t associate “elective” with just things as tummy tucks and facelifts.
Elective means it can be scheduled in advance instead of being scheduled as an emergency. Some heart surgeries, including bypass and valve surgeries, as well as some cancer surgeries or biopsies are scheduled electively. When elective surgeries are delayed for too long, life-threatening emergencies can occur.
Since issuing its first-ever blood crisis alert, severe winter weather has further complicated efforts to rebuild the Red Cross blood supply. So far in 2022, approximately 600 blood drives have been canceled across the country due to winter storms, forcing nearly 20,000 blood and platelet donations to go uncollected.
Don’t let the supply go back to “crisis” mode – make and keep those appointments. It’s quick and easy to find a location and time near you at redcrossblood.org.
If you have either type O positive or O negative – you are needed most urgently: o Type O positive is the most transfused blood type and can be transfused to Rh-positive patients of any blood type. o Type O negative is the universal blood type and what emergency room personnel reach for when there is no time to determine the blood type of patients in the most serious situations.
Platelet donations are also urgently needed. Platelets are the clotting portion of blood, which must be transfused within five days of donation. Nearly half of all platelet donations are given to patients undergoing cancer treatments.
Need more motivation???
For drives March 1-31: All who come to give blood or platelets will get a $10 e-gift card, thanks to Fanatics, world’s largest collection of officially licensed sports gear.
Plus, donors will also automatically be entered for a chance to win a trip for two to the 2022 MLB® All-Star Game® in Los Angeles, California, when you come to give March 1-31. The package includes two tickets to 2022 MLB® All-Star Saturday, the 2022 Home Run Derby and the 2022 MLB® All-Star Game®, round-trip airfare to Los Angeles, four-night hotel accommodations (July 16-20, 2022), plus a $750 gift card for expenses. Details available at rcblood.org/team.
Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer