The power of personal connections: Transitioning back to in-person disaster response

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, many American Red Cross services are transitioning back to being in-person, especially in Disaster Response and Sheltering. While virtual response and other safety measures helped the Red Cross effectively respond to disasters during the height of the pandemic, in-person assistance was missed. As Mike Arthur, regional mass care and logistics manager for Northern Ohio, explained, the ability to provide hot coffee and a hug can mean a great deal.

In addition to Mike, I spoke with Tom Revolinsky, Red Cross disaster program manager for Northeast Ohio, and volunteer Mark Cline, whose many responsibilities include serving as lead for Disaster Action Team (DAT) and Sheltering Applications in Northern Ohio. Each spoke about how effective an in-person connection is for Red Cross responders and clients recovering from a disaster.

Red Cross volunteers respond to an apartment fire

Tom said the transition began a month ago and is going very well. The DAT team is ensuring volunteers are comfortable with the change, and it is safe. As we learn more, he said, we will adapt to ensure everyone’s safety.

Currently, 80% of disaster responses in our region are in-person. For the other 20%, virtual response remains the best option. Northern Ohio DAT has been highly active. Over the past two weekends they responded to 14 home fires, assisting 73 people.

Mark said an in-person meeting gives a chance to better connect with those in need of assistance, as it is much more personal. Similarly, Tom spoke of how meeting in-person better provides the opportunity to give hope, show someone cares and help with recovery. 

Tom recalled how after an exceptionally busy day, he received a late-night call to respond following a home fire. Upon arrival, he met a woman, in tears, sitting in front of her burned-out house. His being there greatly helped, provided comfort, and she soon moved from tears to smiles. Tom said it was empowering for him.

Disaster responder Jan Cooper assists resident Gabriella Asseff after a condo fire in Westlake

I had similar experiences during my time with DAT. The instances when I could see a person begin to recover, to smile and hope again, remain with me.

As for sheltering following a large disaster—fortunately not common in our region—Mike and Tom said congregate housing is now the first option. This will ensure enough space is available, as many hotels are currently near capacity. Safety protocols will be in place. Both Tom and Mike said the Red Cross remains flexible and adapts to each situation, and non-congregate housing remains an option.

Such adaptability has been a hallmark of the Red Cross. When the pandemic necessitated virtual responses to disasters, the DAT team responded. Additionally, technology implemented during the pandemic is also helping with in-person responses.

For many of us, the pandemic underscored the importance of personal connections, especially following a disaster. Thankfully, Northern Ohio DAT responders can provide that again, offering financial assistance along with comfort, hugs and hope.

4th of July: Red Cross issues tips for everyone to have a safe holiday

As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day this weekend, many people plan to attend fireworks displays, a backyard picnic, or just enjoy the outdoors. The American Red Cross wants you to enjoy a fun-packed, safe holiday and offers these tips you can follow over the upcoming holiday:

FIREWORKS SAFETY

The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public firework show put on by professionals. Cities and towns across Northern Ohio are hosting events with fireworks throughout the weekend. Click the links below to find a celebration near you.

While attending, stay at least 500 feet away from the show. Leave any area immediately where untrained amateurs are using fireworks. If you are setting fireworks off at home, follow these safety steps:

  • Never give fireworks to small children, and never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials. Always follow the instructions on the packaging.
  • Keep a supply of water close by as a precaution.
  • Make sure the person lighting fireworks always wears eye protection.
  • Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight “a dud.”
  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children and pets.

PICNIC SAFETY

  • Don’t leave food out in the hot sun. Keep perishable foods in a cooler with plenty of ice or freezer gel packs.
  • Wash your hands before preparing the food.
  • If you are going to grill, always supervise when in use. Don’t add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited. Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill to keep the chef safe.
  • Never grill indoors. Keep the grill out in the open, away from the house, the deck, tree branches or anything that could catch fire. 
  • Make sure everyone, including pets, stays away from the grill.

HEAT SAFETY

  • Hot cars can be deadly. Never leave children or pets in your vehicle. The inside temperature of the car can quickly reach 120 degrees. Check on animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat. Make sure they have plenty of cool water and shade.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays.
  • Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat. If someone doesn’t have air conditioning, they should seek relief from the heat during the warmest part of the day in places like schools, libraries, theaters, malls, etc.

DOWNLOAD OUR APPS. The Red Cross app “Emergency” can help keep you and your loved ones safe with real-time alerts, open Red Cross shelter locations and safety advice. The Red Cross First Aid app provides instant access to information on handling the most common emergencies. Download these apps for free by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in your app store or at redcross.org/apps.

Follow COVID-19 Guidelines

Remember to review the latest COVID-19 pandemic guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with your family before you head out.

We hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable 4th of July!

Celebrate safely this July 4th!

By: Chris Chmura, Red Cross Volunteer

We usually take our summers seriously in Northeast Ohio, but this year is extra special due to COVID-19 restrictions easing and life normalizing a little. 

The Fourth of July is right around the corner, a time when people typically enjoy the summer holiday with backyard barbecues, fireworks, or water fun.  Independence Day will be different due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which could be a little tricky because of the mixed rates of vaccinated Ohioans across the region.  The American Red Cross offers safety tips you can follow to help you enjoy and stay safe during the Fourth of July.

“We know the summertime, particularly the time around the 4th of July, is a great time to get together with friends and family,” said Dr. Austin Wellock, Medical Director, Emergency Department at Summa Health System – Akron Campus. “It’s important to know there can be dangers associated with some everyday outdoor activities. Around this time each year, we see patients in our emergency departments for fireworks related injuries and food illnesses.”

As communities reopening with events, inform yourself of precautions and new regulations that are being set to attend in public settings.

If you have not been vaccinated, you may want to continue to social distance by staying 6 feet away from others, especially if you are at high risk for serious illness from COVID-19 (over age 65 or any age with underlying medical conditions).  If you are vaccinated, educate yourself about the events your planning to attend through their websites and contact numbers. 

  1. Some events may have attendees and/or working staff continue to wear cloth face coverings in public. Face coverings are most essential when social distancing is difficult.  If vaccinated, you might be free or required to wear a mask.
  2. Follow guidelines for your area when it comes to how large gatherings can be. Avoid crowds and mass gatherings if you are not comfortable.
  3. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
  4. Stay home if you are sick.

FIREWORKS SAFETY

Many of last year’s public fireworks shows were canceled across Northern Ohio last summer as communities tried to avoid holding events with large crowds. If you plan to attend a public show this year, we suggest educating yourself on the event that you plan to attend because each city/county may have different restrictions.  Each state have various laws related to personal use fireworks.

  1. Never give fireworks to small children, and never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures, or flammable materials. Always follow the instructions on the packaging.
  2. Keep a supply of water close by as a precaution.
  3. Make sure the person lighting fireworks always wears eye protection.
  4. Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight “a dud.”
  5. Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children and pets.

GRILLING SAFETY

Grilling fires spark more than 10,000 home fires on average each year in the U.S. To avoid this:

  1. Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use. Don’t add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited.
  2. Never grill indoors — not in the house, camper, tent or any enclosed area.
  3. Make sure everyone, stays away from the grill, including children and pets.
  4. Keep the grill away from the house or anything that could catch fire. 
  5. Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill.

WATER SAFETY

Warmer weather means enjoying the water. Be “water smart,” have swimming skills and know how to help others. This includes home pools — where young children are most at risk of drowning — and open water, such as ponds, rivers and lakes — where older children and teens are more likely to drown than any other location. With less access to lifeguarded aquatic facilities this summer, youth and teens may consider open water environments that are not designated for swimming.

  1. Talk to your children, including older youth and teenagers, about water safety. A variety of resources are available at redcross.org/watersafety and redcross.org/watersafetyforkids.
  2. If you choose to take your family to the water, make sure the area is designated for swimming and has lifeguards on duty. Once there, maintain social distancing, both in and out of the water, between you and people who don’t live with you.
  3. Wear face coverings on land, especially when physical distancing is difficult. Do not wear them in the water as it may be difficult to breathe. Don’t share goggles, nose clips, snorkels or other personal items.
  4. Designate a water watcher whose sole responsibility is to supervise people during any in-water activity until the next person takes over.
  5. Kiddie or inflatable pools can be a great way to have fun. Drain the water from the pool and flip it over after swim time is over.

DOWNLOAD RED CROSS APPS The Red Cross offers a series of free mobile apps to put lifesaving safety information in the palm of your hand. Download these apps by searching for “American Red Cross” in your app store or at redcross.org/apps.

  • The Red Cross Swim App has water safety tips and resources for parents and caregivers along with child-friendly games, videos and quizzes.
  • The Red Cross Emergency App can help keep you and your loved ones safe by putting vital information in your hand for more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts.
  • The Red Cross First Aid App puts instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies at your fingertips.

Celebrating World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day May 8

By: Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

May 8th is World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, in which the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) collectively thanks its 13 million volunteers worldwide—about 2,000 of which are in Northern Ohio—for their dedication, bravery, kindness, and selflessness.

This day also coincides with Sound the Alarm, as American Red Cross volunteers and staff are helping area residents develop fire safety plans through doorstep visits. Please read this article for more information.

May 8th is the birthday of Henry Dunant, who was born in Geneva, Switzerland in 1828, founded the IFRC, and received the first Nobel Peace Prize. After witnessing one of the bloodiest battles of the 19th century, Solferino, and assisting in its aftermath, Dunant wrote A Memory of Solferino, published in 1862. After detailing the horrors of the battle and describing efforts to care for the wounded, Dunant offered a plan that the world’s nations form relief societies and appeal to everyone to volunteer. The following year the Geneva Society for Public Welfare appointed Dunant and four others to examine putting the plan into action. This began the foundation of the Red Cross. More on Henry Dunant is here

It would take more than a century, two world wars, and the 1918 flu pandemic before a Red Cross day would be created, however. During that time, the need and effectiveness of Red Cross societies became even clearer. Following World War II, the Board of Governors of the League of Red Cross Societies requested the study of an International Red Cross Day. It was approved two year later, and May 8, 1948 became the first commemoration of what we now know as World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day. Further details are here.

In 2021, the Red Cross’s mission and services are as needed as ever, and the resilience, dedication, flexibility, and selflessness of its volunteers and staff has continued during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the past year has been especially active. In the US, 2020 had the greatest number of billion-dollar disasters in a single year. Here in Northern Ohio, the Red Cross has continued to respond to disasters—including more than three home fires every 24 hours, on average—collect and distribute much needed blood, teach life-saving skills, assist members of the armed services and their families, and help educate the community on home fire safety, virtually and with doorstep visits during tomorrow’s Day of Action.

We recently profiled a few extraordinary volunteers during Volunteer Week. As a Red Cross volunteer, I have been privileged to see such caring and dedication firsthand and have been honored to work alongside some of the kindest, most effective, and remarkable people I have met. Please see here if you would like to join us.

On this World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, we celebrate those who put the Red Cross’s mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering into action, each day.

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

Celebrating Red Cross Month: Volunteer shares reasons why role is fulfilling, invites others to join

By Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer

Throughout the month of March, we honor people like you who make the lifesaving mission of the American Red Cross possible — the individuals across the country who turn compassion into action, helping others in times of crisis. Our Red Cross Month celebration has been an annual tradition since 1943, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the first Red Cross Month proclamation.

 My Volunteer Story

For close to a year, I have been an American Red Cross Transportation Specialist. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically challenged all of us in our daily lives but has also resulted in many learning what is important in their personal lives—family, friends and local communities. I was searching for a way to give back with the extra time I had during the stay-at-home orders. The Transportation Specialist role was a great match.

Volunteer Transportation Specialists deliver lifesaving blood products from Red Cross distribution facilities to hospitals, using a Red Cross-owned vehicle. Simply put, you pick up processed blood at a distribution center, drive it to assigned hospitals and return to drop off empty boxes that you collect.

Chris Chmura delivers blood to a local hospital in his role as a volunteer transportation specialist with the American Red Cross.

My commitment is two to four shifts per month (or more if I can) based on my personal and professional schedule. Typical shifts are about four hours, so I usually schedule to cover routes in the evening /night after work. The Red Cross offers training online and then time spent with a veteran driver to shadow a few days. The amazing employees at the Red Cross support you by answering questions, helping to work with your schedule and steer you in the right direction as you learn your role.  

A few reasons I enjoy the role:

  • My day job is not in the medical field, and I find visiting the Red Cross lab and various hospitals interesting to learn about. You get to experience “behind the scenes” how the Red Cross collects donated blood, how they prepare it for hospitals and see first-hand who it goes to. My favorite route is delivering to Akron Children’s Hospital.
  • You feel a pride and satisfaction volunteering.
  • When I donate blood, I feel a connection to the group who supports the whole process.
  • Other volunteers are welcoming, fun to connect with and build relationships with.
  • I enjoy meeting various people throughout the Red Cross and hospitals that I visit across Northeast Ohio.
  • A large percentage of my time volunteering is drive time, so I relax by listening to podcasts, sports radio or music. 

 Is this Position for You?

Do you enjoy helping your neighbors, giving back to your community and want to enhance your life by using your talents? The Transportation Specialist position might be a good fit for you. You will also need to meet these qualifications to become one:

  • Have a valid state driver’s license and proof of insurance
  • Have three years driving experience and a clean driving record
  • Ability to lift up to 45 lbs.

Check out more details here: https://www.redcross.org/volunteer/volunteer-opportunities/deliver-blood.html.

The Men and Women Behind Our Mission

 We invite you and others to join the Red Cross mission by volunteering, giving blood, learning lifesaving skills or making a financial donation. We are ordinary individuals with the innate desire to do extraordinary things. Red Cross staff and volunteers bring their diverse backgrounds and skills to the table, united by the passion we share for our mission—to prevent and alleviate suffering in the face of emergencies.

 Safety First!

Interested in serving to meet essential service needs in the public? Be sure to review the CDC guidance for people who are at higher risk for severe illness, consult your health care provider and follow local guidance. The number one priority of the American Red Cross is the health and safety of our employees, volunteers, blood donors and recipients, and the people we serve. 

Blood Donations

Don’t forget to donate blood! You don’t need a special reason to give blood. You just need your own reason.

  • Some of us give blood because we were asked by a friend.
  • Some know that a family member or a friend might need blood someday.
  • Some believe it is the right thing to do.
  • Some do it for the free cookies and juice.

To find a blood drive near you, visit https://www.redcrossblood.org/give.html/find-drive.

Everyone can experience and enjoy the great feeling of helping save lives!

When the world stopped, the Red Cross didn’t

Reflections on the response to the pandemic on the one-year anniversary

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

March 2020 would prove to be one of my most memorable volunteer months with the American Red Cross. Within weeks, the world began to see signs like this everywhere.

Everywhere, except at the Red Cross.

Let’s go back to March 1, 2020. This was the day the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the United States, in New York. By then, we had heard about the 400 Americans trapped on a ship in Japan, but we didn’t really consider that the virus was a U.S. problem at the time.

Two days later, everyone forgot about that story when multiple tornadoes ripped through central Tennessee, killing at least 25 people. I recall getting the call that morning and leaving immediately for Nashville to cover the details of the cleanup effort, the sheltering and feeding of hundreds of now homeless people and the mobilization of hundreds of truckloads of supplies.

As I drove home on March 10, New York Governor Cuomo had called on the National Guard to stop traffic around New Rochelle, where 108 cases had been discovered. COVID-19 was now a United States problem.

Just one day later, March 11, the WHO (World Health Organization) would declare this to be an official pandemic with more than 120,000 cases worldwide. That started a landslide of events, and before day’s end:

  • The NBA suspended the 2019-20 season until further notice
  • The NHL paused its 2019-20 season
  • The Dow Jones Industrial 30-day average plunged 20%, ending an 11-year bull market

But what didn’t come crashing to a stop…the Red Cross. 

That same day, President of the American Red Cross Gail McGovern, issued a long memo to all Red Cross volunteers.

In it, she detailed how we would be making all sorts of changes to our day-to-day operations, but what would not change, was our mission to deliver services to those in need.

Blood drives needed to be rescheduled as many businesses closed down, but the need for blood didn’t slow down. By finding larger venues where people could be scheduled and kept socially distanced, the flow of blood continued.

Fires and disasters didn’t stop, but our Humanitarian Services division devised new ways to house people in motels instead of congregate shelters, and our Disaster Action Teams learned to respond virtually using electronic funds transfers to get money quickly into the hands of those left homeless from fires and floods. 

As the rest of the world came to a virtual standstill one year ago today, the Red Cross quickly pivoted to maintain our services to those most in need. If you’d like to help, consider becoming a volunteer or make a contribution to the Red Cross to support our ongoing mission to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. 

Edited by Glenda Bogar, Red Cross Volunteer

Solon Community Center leads the way in hosting blood drives

Other hosts needed to serve vital role during challenging times

By Olivia Wyles, American Red Cross volunteer

One of the first things that comes to mind when someone mentions the American Red Cross is blood drives — and rightly so, as the Red Cross provides about 40% of the entire nation’s blood and blood components. However, only about 3% of age-eligible individuals donate blood on an annual basis. Unfortunately, that number has dropped even further in the last year due in part to a lack of blood drive sponsors.

You may recall having the opportunity to donate blood when you were in school. But the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many schools and businesses no longer being able to host blood drives as more and more locations close and/or restrict access to their facilities. Furthermore, finding spaces that are large enough to host Red Cross blood drives while accommodating social distancing has been a challenge. This is a major barrier for the Red Cross, as our blood drive hosts play an absolutely critical role in maintaining a sufficient blood supply by providing opportunities for people to give to others in their local community. More than 80% of the total blood donations are made at blood drives hosted by our volunteers. Our blood drive hosts play an absolutely vital role in helping the Red Cross ensure that blood is available for patients in over 2,500 hospitals throughout the nation.

Solon Community Center has stood out as a leader for not only continuing to host blood drives over the past year, but for even adding additional blood drives to its schedule. Solon Community Center has been a partner of the Red Cross since 2004. Even amidst the pandemic, it was able to collect 1,095 pints of blood in 2020, which has the ability to help save up to 3,285 lives. The persistent dedication of Solon Community Center staff to host blood drives, combined with the constant support of its local blood donors, have served as an exemplary model for other current and potential blood drive hosts who can also advance the Red Cross mission to provide lifesaving blood for those who need it.

Health and safety is a priority for the Red Cross. All of our blood drive hosts follow the highest standards of safety and infection control while we do our jobs. Some of these protocols include temperature checks for both staff and donors prior to entering a blood drive, mandatory face masks, easily-accessible hand sanitizer at every step of the donation process, and social distancing wherever possible. Lastly, we also urge donors to schedule appointments prior to arrival to ensure that we can manage the flow of donors at blood drives.

So what are you waiting for? Your organization or company could be our next blood drive host and help the Red Cross bring lifesaving resources to those who greatly need them. For those interested in hosting a blood drive, please visit https://www.redcrossblood.org/hosting-a-blood-drive/learn-about-hosting/why-host-a-blood-drive.html.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Red Cross board member donates plasma to help others recover from COVID-19

By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

January 25, 2021- Over the past year, our lives have been consumed by news and updates regarding the coronavirus. We have experienced school closures, canceled vacations, social distancing and mask wearing.

Many of us however have either experienced the virus firsthand or know someone who had COVID-19. For Debbi Grinstein, both experiences are true.

Debbi, a trust officer for Farmers Trust Company, previously served as the board president for the Lake to River Chapter and is currently a board member for the American Red Cross of Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley. In addition to serving on the board of directors, Debbi is also a Disaster Action Team volunteer, assisting residents following a local disaster.

Debbi Grinstein

On December 10, 2020, Debbi began to experience postnasal drip, feeling achy and had a slight fever. That is when she found out that she would join the list of millions of Americans who had COVID-19.

Despite the diagnosis, Debbi considered herself lucky because despite the slight symptoms, she was able to continue to work and exercise at home, and her recovery was quick.

In addition to herself, Debbi experienced the virus through a loved one, as her son, who lives in New York City, also was diagnosed with COVID-19.

During her recovery process, Debbi decided right away that she was going to donate convalescent plasma once she was fully recovered, to try to help others overcome the virus because “it was the right thing to do.”

Convalescent plasma comes from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus. Plasma is the part of blood that remains after red and white blood cells are removed. It is rich in proteins and antibodies. Hospitals and research labs around the country are working to see if these antibodies can help the immune system fight COVID-19.

On January 15, Debbi attended her scheduled appointment at the Akron Donation Center to donate her valuable convalescent plasma.

To those who have recovered from COVID-19 but are on the fence about whether they should donate their convalescent plasma, Debbi has a message for you: “Convalescent plasma is helping a lot of people and it does not hurt when you donate.”

Those who have received a verified COVID-19 diagnosis, have fully recovered and have been symptom free for at least 14 days are urged to sign up to give convalescent plasma by completing the donor information form HERE.

To hear more about Debbi’s COVID-19 journey and about her convalescent plasma donation, be sure to follow our Twitter, Facebook and YouTube pages for an upcoming video conversation with her.

Husband and wife make convalescent plasma donation a family affair

By Sue Wilson, American Red Cross volunteer

August 28, 2020- You may have heard the term “convalescent plasma” as a potential treatment for COVID-19 (coronavirus) and are curious about it.

Simply put, convalescent plasma comes from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus. Plasma is the part of blood that remains after red and white blood cells are removed. It is rich in proteins and antibodies. Hospitals and research labs around the country are working to see if these antibodies can help the immune system fight COVID-19.

The American Red Cross has been collecting convalescent plasma from donors throughout the country who have recovered from COVID-19 for months. But this week, the FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization for convalescent plasma as a treatment for COVID-19 research.

“The donation process on-site was effortless for me and hopefully, my plasma will help others,”

Ron Baumberger

In Northeast Ohio, husband and wife Ron and Elinor Baumberger are answering the call to donate convalescent plasma after they both recovered from COVID-19. Ron donated this past Friday, and Elinor plans to donate next week.

Ron is no stranger to serving his community. Upon his retirement in 2013 after 32 years with Sherwin-Williams, he immediately joined the Red Cross volunteer team as a Disaster Action Team member and is now the Region Logistics Lead. During his time with the Red Cross, Ron has responded to over 200 local fires, flooding, helped at shelters and warming centers, and provided a host of other services. It’s no surprise that after years of donating his time and talent to the Red Cross, that when he and his wife Elinor came down with COVID-19, they would also want to donate their plasma once fully recovered. 

Ron and Elinor Baumberger

Ron considers himself lucky that he and his wife both had mild cases of COVID-19 that did not require hospitalization. They believe Elinor contracted the virus in January before it became widely known in the medical community. In June, the Red Cross began testing donated blood for COVID-19 antibodies. In July, Elinor donated blood, which tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. 

In May, Ron came down with symptoms similar to Elinor’s. “I thought I was suffering from allergies or a sinus infection,” said Ron. “I found out I was exposed (through Elinore) to COVID-19 and started to identify my symptoms as fatigue, a minor sore throat, and loss of taste and smell.” His test came back positive. “Elinor had a worse case of it. But now, we have fully recovered with no post-illness symptoms.” 

“The donation process was quite simple,” Ron explained. “I registered from home, received a phone call to qualify me, selected my time and date, and the rest is history!” 

Ron said the entire process took about 90 minutes. “They explained the process, hooked me up and away we went! They continued to check on me periodically and answered any questions I had.” 

The Red Cross supplies close to 40% of the nation’s blood supply and is always in need of donors, but the pandemic has made the need especially dire. To learn more about blood donation or to find a blood drive or donation center near you, click HERE. The Red Cross is testing all blood donations for COVID-19 antibodies, and if your blood tests positive you may have the unique opportunity to help patients fighting the disease. Click here to learn more about convalescent plasma donations.

“The donation process on-site was effortless for me and hopefully, my plasma will help others,” said Ron.

Those who have received a verified  COVID-19 diagnosis, have fully recovered and have been symptom free for at least 14 days are urged to sign up to give convalescent plasma by completing the donor information form HERE.