Recognizing Red Cross phlebotomists during National Blood Collectors Week

By Christy Peters, American Red Cross Regional Communications Manager

Often, when I tell someone I work for the American Red Cross, I get one of two responses. The first is usually a story about how the Red Cross helped the person or someone they knew. The second reaction is an immediate explanation of how the person really wants to give blood but they’re nervous and they just don’t think they could ever do that.

I can make you feel better right now if you happen to be one of those people who’s never given blood. I didn’t start giving until I began working for the Red Cross and, even then, it took me a really long time to finally do it. What’s even worse? A big part of my job is talking about why we need more people to give! So, what made me finally take the plunge? Getting to know the amazing phlebotomists at the Red Cross.

I recently gave my 12th pint of blood and, as always, I was nervous as I went through the process. But I was lucky because that day, La’shawn Sims was my phlebotomist. She was incredible…funny, kind, enthusiastic and she calmed my nerves immediately. La’shawn has been with the Red Cross for three years as a phlebotomist/driver.

Red Cross Northern Ohio phlebotomist La’shawn Sims prepares blood products for transport during a blood drive at University Hospitals in Cleveland.

“I love my job because of its mission, the ability to help others save lives,” said La’shawn. “I love listening to the donors and the reasons why they donate.”

September 4-10 is National Blood Collectors Week, a time to recognize the amazing work done every single day at the Red Cross by phlebotomists like La’shawn. In the Northern Ohio Region nearly 100 individuals work in this role, helping to collect blood in communities across the Region. The position requires an individual to complete weeks of specific Red Cross training, both in the classroom and on the job, prior to working independently.

Northern Ohio phlebotomist Ariel Blanks prepares to draw blood from Martha Liechty at the 2022 Cleveland Browns Blood Drive

In addition to collecting blood, many staff members drive Red Cross trucks loaded with the equipment needed to set up and run a successful blood drive. The driver role often requires first heading to Regional headquarters in downtown Cleveland, loading the truck and then driving it to the blood drive location. Phlebotomists can also take additional training to learn how to collect Power Red or platelet donations, which require a different process than whole blood collection. Above all else, these individuals are the face of the Red Cross, helping donors through the blood donation process, ensuring a positive experience and hopefully, a lifetime of blood donations.

During National Blood Collectors Week, we give thanks to you – all the phlebotomists who are on the front lines each day, ensuring patients have the blood they need. And, even if you’re nervous like me, La’shawn encourages everyone to donate blood.

“It only takes 30 minutes of your time, and you’ll help save three lives with just one pint.” And, whether it’s La’shawn, or another great Northern Ohio collections staff member, you can know you’ll be in great hands.

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 faces emergency need as blood supplies drop to lowest post-summer levels since 2015  

This is serious: The national American Red Cross blood inventory is the lowest it has been at this time of year since 2015. Donors of all blood types – especially type O – and platelet donors are urged to make an appointment to give now and in the weeks ahead to overcome an emergency shortage. 

Blood donor turnout has reached the lowest levels of the year as many delayed giving amid a return to the workplace and in-person learning, as well as a recent surge in COVID-19 cases across the country due to the delta variant. As cases spiked in August, blood donor participation decreased about 10%, but blood product distributions to hospitals have remained strong, significantly outpacing blood donations in recent weeks. 

Patients, including those facing cancer, rely on the kindness of blood and platelet donors to help ensure they have the blood products they need for treatment. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, the Red Cross encourages eligible donors roll up a sleeve to provide hope and healing to cancer patients.

According to the National Cancer Institute, roughly 1.9 million people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. this year, and more than 281,000 of those individuals will have breast cancer. Patients with breast cancer and other cancers may need blood products on a regular basis during chemotherapy, surgery or treatment for complications. Platelet transfusions are often needed by patients to help prevent life-threatening bleeding. More than half of all platelets collected by the Red Cross are used by patients with cancer.

Here are 3 easy ways YOU can help restock the shelves:

  1. Make an appointment to give blood or platelets by downloading the free Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).  
  2. Let your friends and family know there is an emergency blood shortage.
  3. Invite someone to donate with you.

One act of kindness deserves another

All those who come to donate in October will receive a link by email to claim a free Zaxby’s Signature Sandwich reward or get a $5 e-gift card to a merchant of their choice. Terms and conditions apply; see rcblood.org/zax for details.

Blood drive safety 

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including face masks for donors and staff, regardless of vaccination status – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive. 

Don’t wait – make your appointment to donate.

Giving back this Good Neighbor Day

By Sam Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

National Good Neighbor Day is September 28, a day that celebrates our neighbors and encourages us to get to know our community better. Neighbors look out for one another and help each other out.

Good Neighbor Day was created in the 1970s in Lakeside, Montana, and President Jimmy Carter in 1978 proclaimed the day, saying: “Understanding, love and respect build cohesive families and communities. The same bonds cement our nation and the nations of the world. For most of us, this sense of community is nurtured and expressed in our neighborhoods where we give each other an opportunity to share and feel part of a larger family.”

Neighbors extend past the individuals who share a common wall or property line. At the American Red Cross, our communities are our neighbors. Whether they are next door or beyond, the Red Cross works to help and support individuals who are in need—after a disaster, when a blood donation is needed or preparing before the next disaster strikes.

This Good Neighbor Day, there are many ways you can give back to your Northern Ohio neighbors through the Red Cross.

  • Donate. There are different ways you can make a financial contribution to support the work of the Red Cross, both in your local community and around the world.
  • Give Blood. Donating blood is a simple thing you can do to help save lives. Blood donations help people going through cancer treatment, having surgery, who have chronic illnesses and those who experience traumatic injuries. The Red Cross holds blood drives across Northern Ohio every week. You can find and sign up for an upcoming blood drive here.
  • Volunteer. 90% of the Red Cross workforce are volunteers. There are a variety of volunteer opportunities available right here in our area. You can learn more and apply to be a volunteer in Northern Ohio here.
  • Learn a Lifesaving Skill. The Red Cross has been teaching emergency and safety training for more than a century. You can learn first aid, be trained in administering CPR or using an AED, to be prepared for when a need for these skills arises. You can review and sign up for a class here.

There are endless possibilities of ways you can be a good neighbor and help give back to the community. You never know how one small act of kindness can impact a neighbor near you.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Give blood early in August, get chance at music festival tickets, help build supply during shortage

By: Olivia Wyles, American Red Cross volunteer

If you are as big of a music-lover as I am, then you likely share in my excitement for public concerts returning this summer for the first time in over a year. The music industry is bursting at the seams with music ready to be performed.

This year, the American Red Cross is partnering with Bonnaroo to give away free tickets to this sold-out music festival, which will be held in Manchester, Tennessee, the first weekend of September 2021. By donating blood at a Red Cross drive Aug. 1-15, you will be entered to win an all-expenses paid trip to Bonnaroo for two. Various genres of music can be heard at Bonnaroo over the course of the four-day festival from pop and alternative rock to jazz, country and gospel. For more information on the offer, click here.

The Red Cross is one of the primary suppliers of blood for hospitals throughout the U.S. but currently has a dire need for blood donations. Right now, the Red Cross is distributing 12% more blood to hospitals than distributed at this time last year, which is contributing to the severe blood shortage that we are currently experiencing. This shortage affects every region, including Northern Ohio.

Leaders of several major hospitals are lending their voices to the call for increased blood donations.

“Our nation is facing a critical blood shortage,” said Tom Mihaljevic, M.D., CEO and President of Cleveland Clinic. “In this time of need, we urge the community to donate so we can ensure we have lifesaving blood products for patients.”

Dr. Mihaljevic added, “One person can help save hundreds of lives. At Cleveland Clinic, we support blood drives all year long and encourage everyone who is able to give blood and get involved.”

MetroHealth President and CEO Akram Boutros, MD, FACHE, said, “An adequate blood supply is essential to perform our life-saving work at MetroHealth as the region’s most experienced Level 1 Trauma Center.” Dr. Boutros added, “Every day, blood donors help save countless lives in Cleveland and beyond – the lives of our family, friends and neighbors. It’s time for us all to step up for our community and donate this precious resource.”

“Every day, blood donors help save countless lives in Cleveland and beyond – the lives of our family friends and neighbors. It’s time for us all to step up for our community and donate this precious resource.”

Akram Boutros, MD, FACHE, MetroHealth President and CEO

Cliff Megerian, MD, CEO of University Hospitals said, “A blood donation, especially at such a critical time, can truly help save lives. As a provider of coordinated trauma care with Level 1 trauma centers for adults and children, as well as a network of regional Level III trauma centers, we at University Hospitals know how lives can change in an instant and the crucial importance of having adequate blood supplies for trauma and surgeries.  Please give if you’re able.”

Kristy Short, ProMedica blood bank manager in Toledo said, “The Red Cross is our primary source for blood. We have been working closely with them to keep our inventory levels stable so that we can continue to meet all our patients’ needs.” She added, “Our community is the key to helping end this shortage. We encourage all those who are eligible to donate and help save lives.”

And Richard L. George, MD, MSPH, FACS Chief, Division of Trauma ICU Surgical Director Summa Health System – Akron Campus, said, “Blood donations save lives. Having an adequate supply is essential to treat patients.” “As we continue to see a shortage of blood across the country, we encourage you to donate soon.”

To find a blood drive near you, click here. Encourage a friend or family member to do the same and help the Red Cross continue supplying lifesaving blood to patients around the country. You never know, maybe you’ll get to spend four days at the Bonnaroo music festival to top it all off!

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.

Alert: Critical need for blood and platelet donors

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

January 15, 2019- The American Red Cross is asking the public to kick off 2020 by doing something big: Give blood or platelets now to address the critical need for blood donors of all blood types – especially type O – and platelet donors.

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A shortfall in donations can cause delays in care

The family of 12-year-old Dagan Hawkins, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in November, knows this all too well. “While at the hospital, Dagan needed platelet and blood transfusions,” said Dustin Hawkins, Dagan’s father. “There was a time when platelets had to be delivered from another location because they were not available.”

Recipient_Dagan

Dagan Hawkins

You can help restock the shelves

  1. Make an appointment to give blood or platelets by downloading the free Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
  2. Let your friends and family know there is a critical need for blood and platelet donors and ask them to #GiveNow.
  3. Bring someone to donate with you.

Your support can help ensure blood products are there for patients going through cancer treatments, trauma victims, premature babies and others who depend on transfusions for survival.

Be a champion for patients in need

Super Bowl Giveaway (1)

To help tackle the current critical need for blood and platelets, the Red Cross has teamed up with the NFL to offer one lucky winner the chance to experience the Super Bowl live in Miami. Those who come to give by Jan. 19, 2020, will automatically be entered for a chance to win an exciting Super Bowl LIV getaway for two. The Super Bowl LIV getaway package includes two tickets to Super Bowl LIV, entry to the official NFL Tailgate, two tickets to Super Bowl Experience at the Miami Beach Convention Center, round-trip airfare to Miami and three-night hotel accommodations (Jan. 31-Feb. 3, 2020), and a $500 gift card for expenses. Terms apply; visit RedCrossBlood.org/SuperBowl for more information.

Don’t wait to help. Make your game plan to give now and help save lives.

If you are unable to give now, but will be eligible by February 11, sign up to donate during the annual Landerhaven blood drive on February 11, 2020. Enjoy gourmet food, live music and receive a free t-shirt, as you spread the love to someone in need.

Be the lifeline for patients in need this holiday season – Give Blood!

Community urged to help patients in need across northeast Ohio

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

November 25, 2019- The American Red Cross urges eligible donors to be the lifeline for patients in need this holiday season by making an appointment to give blood or platelets. While helping to save lives is likely motivation enough, those who come out to give Nov. 18-Dec. 18 will also receive a $5 Amazon.com Gift Card via email, courtesy of Suburban Propane.

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As schedules fill with holiday parties, shopping and fun with friends and family, many blood and platelet donors delay giving. Unfortunately, that may lead to delays in treatments for patients relying on blood. Right now, there is a critical need for type O blood donors.

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Join the Red Cross and Cleveland Clinic for a special Black Friday blood drive Friday, Nov. 29 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Emerald Event Center. The center is located at the Residence Inn by Marriott, 33040 Just Imagine Drive in Avon. All who come to donate will also receive a Red Cross long-sleeved T-shirt, while supplies last and enjoy a catered meal.

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Your blood donation may give a patient in need more time – and more holidays – with loved ones. To make an appointment or for more information download the free 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.

Let’s Help Save Lives!

CEO Sends Message to Encourage Donations During Board Blood Drive

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Memorial Day weekend approaches.  It’s the unofficial start of the summer season, when blood donations typically drop.  The Greater Cleveland Chapter Board of Directors is sponsoring a blood drive tomorrow, the Thursday before Memorial Day, at Regional Headquarters, 3747 Euclid Avenue in Cleveland.  Regional CEO Mike Parks issued the following message:

Northeast Ohio Red Cross Family: 

As a reminder, on Thursday, May 25th from 1:00-6:00 pm, let’s roll up our sleeves and help save lives!  The American Red Cross Greater Cleveland Chapter will hold a blood drive sponsored by the Board of Directors.  The Red Cross has over 130 years of experience providing humanitarian aid – including more than 70 years of supplying blood to those in need.

Each pint of blood we collect can help save up to three lives and will touch the lives of so many more. What a great way to pay it forward and make an impact on people in our community and across the country.  We are very excited about the drive and I hope you are too.

We are planning some great giveaways for that day.  Let’s show our community and the patients in need of blood just how much we can do.  There are many ways you can help, but most importantly we hope you come out to donate.  It’s not every day that we do something that has such a lifesaving impact. Let’s blow this out of the water! Feel free to invite your family, friends and co-workers to support this critical initiative.  I plan to be first in line at 1:00 pm with my sleeve rolled up!!

Individuals who are at least 17 years of age (16 with parental consent), weigh at least 110 pounds and in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood.  If you are able and eligible to give blood, please make an appointment at www.redcrossblood.org using sponsor code NEOBOARD or call 1-800-RED CROSS.  In addition, you can schedule and track your donation by using the Blood Donor App.  It is free and available for download on iPhoneTM and AndroidTM devices through the App StoreSM and Google PlayTM or by texting BLOODAPP to 90999 for a link to download the App.

On the day of donation, blood donors can save time by using RapidPass to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online prior to arriving at the blood drive by visiting www.redcrossblood.org/RapidPass and following the instructions on the site.  I just found out that the President of Biomedical Services, Shaun Gilmore, and his senior leadership team will be visiting us on Thursday—what better way to demonstrate our commitment to One Red Cross than having a highly successful blood drive—we might even convince them to roll up their sleeves!!

Thank you for supporting the American Red Cross!…Best regards, Mike