“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

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.

New Facebook and Alexa features help boost blood donations

By Christy Peters, External Communications Manager, Northern Ohio Biomedical Services

October 23, 2019- The American Red Cross has partnered with some of the country’s leading technology brands to make donating blood even easier. Now, blood donors can find blood drives and schedule appointments using Facebook and Alexa devices.

Monroe Carell Jr Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, Nashville, Tennessee 2019

In June, the Red Cross, along with other blood collection organizations, partnered with Facebook to help raise awareness about the critical need for blood donors. Facebook’s new Blood Donations feature makes it easier to find opportunities to donate – allowing users to sign up to be blood donors, receive notifications about nearby blood drives and invite friends to help save lives too. Since launching, more than one million people in the U.S. have signed up and it has helped to schedule over 600 Red Cross blood donation appointments.

Monroe Carell Jr Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, Nashville, Tennessee 2019

To make it easier for people to access services and get critical safety information, the Red Cross is also partnering with Alexa, Amazon’s voice service. The Red Cross Blood scheduling skill for Amazon Alexa helps users schedule a blood donation appointment, find blood drives nearby and get notification reminders before an appointment. Users can enable this skill and link their Red Cross account to manage appointments. Donors can open the Red Cross Blood skill with a selection of prompts such as, “Alexa, open Red Cross Blood skill,” and ask, for example, “Alexa, find a blood drive.”

Bloodmobile Blood Drive Columbia, South Carolina 2018

Individuals interested in signing up to become a blood donor on Facebook can visit facebook.com/donateblood. The Red Cross Blood skill for Alexa is available on any Alexa-enabled device such as Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show or Echo Spot. The skills can be enabled in the Alexa Skills Store through the Alexa app or at Amazon.com.

Blood Drive New York 2018

The Northern Ohio Blood Services Region of the Red Cross serves 19 counties in northern Ohio and needs to collect approximately 500 pints of blood every day to meet the needs of patients at more than 50 local hospitals. Without the generous giving of volunteer blood donors, that need cannot be met.

Thanks for Giving 2018

Volunteers and donors share stories and a meal at second annual event

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It was a family affair.  Our NEO Red Cross family.

Dozens of volunteers and donors gathered on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving at Regional Headquarters in Cleveland to hear CEO Mike Parks offer his sincere appreciation for the time, talent and treasure they donate to help fulfill the Red Cross mission.

Red Crossers from all five chapters – Greater Cleveland, Lake Erie/Heartland, Lake to River, Stark and Muskingum Lakes, and Summit. Portage and Medina Counties were represented at the Region’s Thanks for Giving event.

Visit our Facebook page to see Mike’s message, along with a video message from National Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern, and a couple of mission moment videos: one addressing the Red Cross effort to help those affected by wildfires in California,  the other with a leukemia survivor who is now an advocate for blood donations.  And see photos captured by communications volunteer Cal Pusateri in our Flickr album.

If you’d like to join our volunteer workforce, visit redcross.org/neo to explore the many volunteer opportunities available.