Red Cross response in 2021: Families face emergency needs

Bring hope to the holidays by donating on Giving Tuesday or giving blood to help overcome the nation’s emergency blood shortage

In 2021, people in Northern Ohio and across the country faced great emergency needs as the ongoing pandemic exacerbated the challenges related to severe disasters, blood shortages and global conflict.

“Our most vulnerable neighbors are facing unique and pressing struggles when crisis strikes on top of COVID-19,” Mike Parks, Regional CEO said. “This holiday season, join us to provide help and hope in these difficult moments by making a financial donation or by giving blood or platelets.”

Watch Mike’s Thanksgiving video message here.

Visit redcross.org to make a financial donation or an appointment to give blood or platelets. Individuals can also learn about volunteer opportunities in their area and give back in honor of American Red Cross founder Clara Barton, whose 200th birthday will be commemorated on December 25.

RELENTLESS DISASTERS COMPOUND COVID-19 STRUGGLES 2021 marked one of the country’s most active years for severe weather — which battered many communities still reeling from last year’s disasters. For thousands of people in need, the Red Cross launched a new major relief effort every 11 days to provide refuge, food and care.

August 10, 2021. Chicago Park, California. Red Cross volunteer Dave Wagner surveys damage from the River Fire on Meyer Drive in Chicago Park, California. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

This year, a family displaced by a disaster in the U.S. spent an average of nearly 30 days in a Red Cross-supported emergency shelter. These extended stays were largely due to a lack of savings and community housing shortages — signs that climate-driven disasters are compounding the financial hardships of the pandemic.

Tom Revolinsky and Tracy Endress travelled to the hurricane-ravaged gulf coast

65 disaster workers from Northern Ohio, most of them volunteers, helped people across the country who were impacted by disasters, including western wildfires, Hurricane Ida, Tropical Storms Fred and Henri, flooding in middle Tennessee, and the repatriation of refugees from Afghanistan in Maryland, Virginia and Wisconsin.

In Northern Ohio, Red Cross workers responded to nearly 1,200 disasters – the vast majority of them home fires. More than 1,800 families received assistance in the immediate hours and days after experiencing their darkest hours.

GLOBAL CONFLICT CREATES MASS NEEDS FOR DISPLACED FAMILIES Around the world, massive humanitarian needs emerged in 2021 for a growing number of families displaced by the overlapping challenges of conflict, COVID-19 and climate change. This year, at the request of federal government partners, Red Cross workers from Northern Ohio and across the country distributed more than 2.1 million essential items — like blankets, diapers, medicine and toys — for Afghan evacuees arriving on U.S. military bases and unaccompanied children seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

September 1, 2021. Ramstein Air Base, Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany. The American Red Cross is welcoming evacuees from Afghanistan at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, at the request of the Department of Defense. Red Cross team members are offering hygiene supplies, baby items, and other necessities. Photo by Emily Osment / American Red Cross

COVID-19 STRAINS BLOOD SUPPLY FOR PATIENTS To meet the increasing needs of hospital patients, the Red Cross distributed 250,000 more blood products in 2021 than last year, until the delta variant began to spread in August. The pandemic also resulted in fewer blood drives at schools and colleges, contributing to a 34% drop in new blood donors from last year — one of the largest year-to-year decreases and one that could threaten essential medical care for patients. Locally, the Northern Ohio Red Cross Region has experienced a 32% decrease in new blood donors this year.

Blood donor Ed Lewis gives at the WNCX Rock and Roll blood drive in April, 2021

As a result of low blood donor turnout in recent months, the Red Cross is heading into the holidays with its lowest blood supply in more than a decade at this time of year. Blood donations are desperately needed now to meet the needs of accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease.

All those who come to give Nov. 29-Dec.16 will automatically be entered for the chance to win a private screening for the winner and 50 of their guests of the epic new film The Matrix Resurrections. Plus, those who come to give Nov. 29-Dec. 16 will also get a $10 Amazon.com Gift Card by email, thanks to Amazon.*

30-gallon blood donor says YOU can save a life

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

Marie Lecurgo doesn’t remember the first time she donated blood, which is understandable, because she started more than 40 years ago.

But she knows why she’s still donating blood: “The feeling that you’re helping so many people, it’s overwhelming.”

Marie chokes up as she thinks of how many people have benefitted from the 30 gallons she has given. That’s 240 pints, each of which can be separated into three critical components. So that’s as many as 720 recipients: accident victims, surgery patients, people undergoing treatment for everything from cancer to sickle cell disease.

Marie Lecurgo (center), with Red Cross staff, shows off her badge of honor after a recent donation at UAW Local 12 in Toledo

The 71-year-old Toledo resident, a not-yet-retired licensed practical nurse, is out front with her support for the American Red Cross. “I feel like a walking billboard for the Red Cross. I wear all their free T-shirts,” she says with a chuckle.

But she turns serious when she thinks about people who shy away from rolling up their sleeves, citing a fear of needles. Get over it!” she says firmly. There may be a time when you or someone you love needs blood.” She’d love to inspire a hundred more people to follow her selfless example.

“There may be a time when you or someone you love needs blood.”

Marie Lecurgo

In fact, Red Cross is seeing the worst post-summer shortage of blood and platelets in at least six years.

The blood inventory typically rebounds after summer shortages. But this fall, a surge in COVID-19 cases because of the Delta variant has contributed to the lowest donor turnout of the year. To meet hospital and patient needs, the Red Cross needs to collect 10,000 additional blood products each week this month.

With less than a day’s supply of certain blood types on hand in recent weeks, the Red Cross urges donors of all blood types — especially type O — to make an appointment to give blood or platelets.

Marie made an appointment to donate whole blood again last week and now she’s thinking about giving platelets too. Donors can give platelets every seven days because the process extracts just the platelets, returning the rest of the blood back to the donor, so there’s less recovery time.

To sign up for a blood drive or donation center near you, use the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Every Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows strict standards of safety and infection control, and  additional precautions  — including face masks for all donors and staff, regardless of vaccination status — are in place to protect everyone’s health. Donors are encouraged to schedule an appointment before arriving at a drive. 

Donors can save up to 15 minutes at their blood drive by using 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, bring a blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification to 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.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Red Cross facing severe blood shortage: Donors needed now

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final weeks for COVID-19 antibody testing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now would be a DOUBLY beneficial time to donate.

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

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

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

Edited by: Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Help refuel the blood supply in April and be entered to win a trip to the 2022 Indianapolis 500®

Every single day in Northern Ohio, the American Red Cross needs to collect approximately 500 pints of blood to meet the needs of patients in more than 70 local hospitals. And, in the midst of a continuing pandemic, the need for blood donors continues to be essential. Right now, the Red Cross needs donors of all types, especially those with type O blood, to race to give blood or platelets and help refuel the blood supply.

During the month of April, the Red Cross is teaming up with INDYCAR® to urge people to help keep the blood supply on track by donating blood or platelets. Those who come to give April 1-15, 2021, will automatically be entered to win a VIP trip for four to the 2022 Indianapolis 500®. The Red Cross will also automatically enter all who come to give in April for a chance to win one of five $1,000 e-gift cards to a merchant of choice. Additional details are available at RedCrossBlood.org/Indy500.

The need for blood doesn’t take a pit stop

Every day – even during a pandemic – patients like Kristen Palocko rely on lifesaving blood products. In 2017, Palocko, a critical care nurse from Broadview Heights, was feeling extremely fatigued. After a trip to the ER, she found out she had a rare bleeding disorder called thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP).

“This started me on a roller coaster of a 12-day hospital stay, a central dialysis line in my neck, and multiple units of red blood cells and plasma.” Kristin received 330 units of plasma, taking four hours each for 10 of those 12 days.

“I feel blessed for everyone’s thoughts and prayers through it all—especially the blood donors. They have helped me, and numerous others, in our time of greatest need with their generous donations,” said Palocko. “Without those willing to give of their time (and blood) there would not be treatment for TTP.”

In Northern Ohio, donors can visit one of four donation centers in Toledo, Cleveland, Akron or Parma. To schedule a donation appointment, download the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.

When seconds count in the race to save lives, it’s the blood already on the shelves that helps most. Join us and give to help ensure hospitals are ready to respond to the needs of patients this month.

Building a blood supply as diverse as the community it serves

Just as people have different hair or eye color and come in all shapes and sizes, they also have different blood types. While most blood types fall into one of the four major groups: A, B, AB and O, some people have rare blood types. Because of their rare blood types, these patients need a more diverse blood supply.

Red blood cells carry markers called antigens that determine one’s blood type. There are more than 600 known antigens, some that are unique to specific racial or ethnic groups. For example, U-negative and Duffy-negative blood types are two types unique to the African American community. When treating patients who have these rare types, blood from donors of the same ethnic background is less likely to cause complications.

November 22, 2020. Portsmouth, Virginia. Grove Church Blood Drive 2020. Photos by Jared Beasley/American Red Cross

This is especially important for patients who have chronic blood disorders that require regular blood transfusions. Glinda Dames-Fincher, of Mayfield Heights, has lived with sickle cell disease for more than 60 years. Sickle cell disease is the most common genetic blood disease in the U.S. and it largely affects those of African and Latino descent. It causes red blood cells to be hard and crescent-shaped instead of soft and round. As a result, blood has difficulty flowing smoothly and carrying oxygen to the rest of the body. Blood transfusion is a known treatment for patients with sickle cell disease.

“As part of my treatment, I receive monthly red cell exchange transfusions. I receive two pints of red blood cells during each of these transfusions,” said Dames-Fincher. “I have received regular blood transfusions for the last 20 years to help manage my sickle cell disease. Without donated blood, sickle cell patients face sickle cell crisis, and other complications such as strokes, organ failure, chronic wounds, and shortened lifespan.”

The need for blood is constant and all eligible donors are encouraged to give and help meet the need. Whether blood is needed for a chronic condition, such as sickle cell disease, a surgical procedure or a large-scale emergency, it’s the blood already on the shelves that helps save lives.

To find a blood drive near you and make an appointment, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or download the free Red Cross Blood Donor App. Visit Red Cross Blood & Diversity to learn more about the need for diverse blood donors.

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

In the midst of flu, colds and COVID-19, healthy blood donors fill a vital need

By Christy Peters, Regional Communications Manager

It’s that time of year, when many of us are reaching for Kleenex, sipping hot tea and hoping our “slight” headache isn’t the start of something worse. And, as COVID-19 cases rise across the country, the occasional sniffle and cough fills many with more dread than usual.

If you’re one of the fortunate individuals still in tip-top shape, your good health could be a gift to patients who depend on blood transfusions. In order to give blood, donors must be feeling healthy and well on the day of their donation. As illness spreads, the number of eligible blood donors decreases. However, the need for blood is constant. Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood and the Red Cross must collect nearly 13,000 blood donations and more than 2,600 platelet donations every day for patients at about 2,500 hospitals nationwide, including 80 hospitals in northern Ohio.

Christine McKenzie of Westlake at the Holiday Blood Drive at Crocker Park, 12/18/20

The Red Cross is encouraging all who are healthy and well to consider making a blood, platelet or plasma donation in the coming weeks. If you have fully recovered from COVID-19, you can help patients who are currently fighting the disease by giving convalescent plasma. Convalescent plasma is a type of blood donation that contains antibodies that might help patients actively fighting the virus. An increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations has caused the Red Cross to distribute a record number of convalescence plasma products in the past month. In fact, our hospital distributions of convalescent plasma increased 250% in November compared to September. To learn more about giving convalescent plasma visit RedCrossBlood.org/plasma4covid.

Your good health could be a gift to patients who depend on blood transfusions.

To ensure a great donation experience, make sure you get a good night’s sleep before you give, drink plenty of fluids and eat a healthy meal before giving. You should also continue to drink plenty of fluids after your donation. In the time between donations, make sure to eat iron-rich foods such as fish, poultry, spinach and broccoli. If you have questions about your ability to give, you can review all the eligibility requirements on the Red Cross website or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Megan Coffman of Rocky River at the Holiday Blood Drive at Crocker Park, 12/18/20. “I’m not afraid of needles. I give for those who are.”

If you’ve been fortunate enough to avoid colds, flu and COVID-19 so far this season, please consider giving blood for patients in need. Good health is a gift – please share it with those who need it most.

A Blood Donor Ambassador’s advice for a great experience when donating blood

Prepare your body with food and extra water. Eat a meal within four hours of donating and avoid caffeinated beverages. 

Prepare for a ‘walk through’ experience. Do the Rapid Pass (the reading and the questions) on the same day. Less waiting time for all donors. Another benefit. You contribute towards more donors saving lives. 

The Donor App is available for smartphones and tablets. Safe guard your read and question/answer time. Do a ‘screen shot’ of your QR (scanning square). Avoids having to redo the Rapid Pass, again. Text BLOODAPP to 90999 or search Red Cross Blood in your app store. The Donor app has your ‘Donor ID card’ and the ‘Start Rapid Pass’. Other helpful and interesting features included in the app. 

On computer with printing or e-mail capability:  redcrossblood.org/RapidPass.

Trouble accessing your Donor app or account? Call Red Cross for IT help (1-800-733-2767). Consider the ‘remember me’ feature for auto-login.

Paul Wadowick, American Red Cross Blood Donor Ambassador and Communications 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