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

By Ryan Lang, American Red Cross Volunteer

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

Ed Fink, Krista Fink, Dylan Fink, Grady Fink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

Busting common myths about donating blood

By Samantha Pudeslki, American Red Cross volunteer

Have you always assumed you can’t donate blood? You’re not alone. There are a lot of people who may think they cannot donate, but actually can. Here are a few of the most common myths around blood donation restrictions and the facts you need to know.

Myth #1: You can’t donate blood if you have a tattoo and/or body piercing.

Fact: You can donate blood if you have tattoos and/or body piercings. If you recently had a tattoo and it was applied in a state-regulated/licensed tattoo facility using sterile needles and the ink was not reused, you may not have to wait to give blood. Those who are certain a sterile needle was used for a body piercing also may not need to wait. Otherwise, you must wait one year after receiving a tattoo or body piercing.

Myth #2: You can’t donate blood if you take regular medications.

Fact: In almost all cases, medications won’t disqualify you as a blood donor. Instead, your eligibility is based on the reason the medication was prescribed. As long as the condition is under control and you are healthy, blood donation is usually permitted. If you are unsure, visit our eligibility page at RedCrossBlood.org..

Myth #3: You can’t donate blood if you are a diabetic.

Fact: Diabetics who are well controlled on insulin or oral medications are eligible to donate.

Myth #4: You can’t donate blood if you have had cancer.

Fact: It depends on the type of cancer and your treatment history. Those who have had leukemia or lymphoma, including Hodgkin’s disease and other cancers of the blood are not eligible. With most other types of cancers, you are able to donate blood if it the cancer has been treated successfully and it has been more than 12 months since treatment. Cleveland city councilman Kevin Conwell is once again a regular donor, after winning a battle with cancer. Read his story here.

Myth #5: I am too old or too young to donate.

Fact: You must be 17 years old or 16 years old with parental/guardian consent to donate blood, if allowed by state law. There is no age limit for older adults as long as you are healthy and meet the other criteria.

Myth #6: You can’t donate blood if you have travelled outside of the U.S.

Fact: While there are some travel restrictions in place, they are very specific to the location and time period that the individual spent there. If you have questions about eligibility, you can call 866-236-3276 to speak with an eligibility specialist about your travel.

For more facts around the blood donation process, visit the American Red Cross FAQ page. Ready to donate? Visit our website to find an upcoming drive near you.

If you are someone who is unable to donate blood, there are other ways you can support the cause! The Northern Ohio Region of Red Cross relies on volunteers to help with essential tasks like registration to make sure blood drives run smoothly. To learn more about volunteer opportunities in Northern Ohio, click here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Giving blood gives time to those fighting cancer

By Sue Wilson, American Red Cross volunteer

February 4, 2021- If you or someone you love have gone through a health scare of any kind, you know firsthand how your perspective changes in the blink of an eye. When my husband got his cancer diagnosis, we were shocked. We thought there was a simple explanation for his symptoms. We thought the biopsy was a routine test they were doing along with some others. We were in a state of disbelief when the doctor said that not only was it cancer, but it was advanced. He died a year later.

Cancer has a way of making time an all-consuming obsession. The realization that every minute is important, every day should be cherished, and that time is a precious commodity is never far from my thoughts. 

When you think about fighting cancer, the first thing you may think of is chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. What so many don’t realize is that many cancer patients undergoing chemo will likely have a need for blood. In fact, five units of blood are needed every minute to help someone going through cancer treatment. Patients fighting cancer use nearly one quarter of the nation’s blood supply – more than patients fighting any other disease. And, yet, only 3% of people in the U.S. regularly donate blood.

You may not have put the two together before but giving blood can help patients fight cancer. There simply aren’t enough people regularly donating blood to meet the ongoing need. That’s the message the American Red Cross wants to spread.

We know that not everyone is eligible to donate blood, so a financial donation is also encouraged. By making a financial gift in any amount, you’re helping to give patients and their families time, resources and the hope they need to fight back.

My grief had me vacillating between a depressive despair that made me want to do nothing and a manic desire to do anything and everything to help others who were suffering. But I didn’t know where to start. Donating blood is a start. It’s a meaningful way to honor someone you love who is battling or has battled cancer. To learn more and to schedule a blood donation appointment, visit RedCrossBlood.org.

To make a financial gift, visit redcross.org/donate.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteers