A legacy of giving

By J.D. Brink, American Red Cross volunteer

I first gave blood because my father had given.

He gave because my sister had leukemia.

He may have given blood before that, but I was too young to know. On Labor Day 1986, my sister Ashley was diagnosed with leukemia at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Toledo. She was three years old at the time. I was not quite ten.

Ashley and David Brink

Leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow. Since the bone marrow is where blood cells are manufactured, patients with leukemia have a severe lack of them. Red blood cells deliver oxygen throughout the body. White blood cells fight infections. Platelets stick together to form blood clots so we don’t bleed to death. For those with leukemia, these are all in tragically short supply.

I don’t remember a lot from that time. But I do remember her smile, her dancing, her wonderful personality. I think most of my mental images of Ashley come from pictures and home movies. And in the vast majority of them, Ashley is bald. A smiling, beautiful, three- and four-year old girl with no hair. Her hair loss was caused by the chemotherapy used to treat her cancer. Not only did it take hair, it killed her blood cells too. Because of this, Ashley received many blood transfusions. My dad’s blood was not compatible, so he gave so that others could get what they needed.

Ashley and David Brink

I have retained some memories of my own from that time. The handmade sign that hung in our mudroom, just inside the backdoor, warning of every one of Ashley’s low cell counts, asking them to take their shoes off and minimize germs coming into the house. Another was a big handwritten list of rules for my brother and I from Grandma Brink, taped to the closet door. Guidance when Ashley and our mom spent weeks or months at a children’s hospital in Wisconsin. I remember my Uncle Pork (not the name on his birth certificate) staying with us when both parents were there. And I remember all of us staying at the Milwaukee Ronald McDonald House, which is a wonderful charity that supplies a place for families to live while their children are hospitalized away from home. We even spent a Christmas there.

Ashley had a bone marrow transplant on Halloween, 1987. Since all the nurses were in costume, she insisted on dressing as a witch that day, too.

She passed away January 15, 1988. She was only four years old. Her light shined amazingly bright for someone so young with so much pain in her life.

I’ve had a good cry writing this article, reliving memories that had long been forgotten. It feels good.

My father, David Brink, passed away September 20, 2021. Cancer was a factor. My grandma’s list of rules was still on the closet door when we cleared out his house. In his lifetime, he’d donated gallons of blood. I think it was nine gallons. Maybe twelve? (We know how unreliable my memory is.) He signed up to be a bone marrow donor, too, but was never matched for it. But he would have done it, gladly.

I started donating blood as soon as I was legally able, at 18. My first time was in the high school gym, during my school day.

I give because of everything you’ve just read. So did my dad. I hope my son will someday, too.

If you’d like to make an appointment to donate blood or platelets, please visit redcrossblood.org or call 800-RED CROSS.


Posted by Ryan Lang, Red Cross board member and volunteer

Dozens Donate Blood at Drive Held in Honor of Norwalk Boy

Turnout a Success Ahead of National Blood Donor Month

Have you made a resolution to donate blood in the New Year?

January is National Blood Donor Month, the perfect time to resolve to be a regular blood donor!  Extreme winter weather and seasonal illnesses often make it difficult for the Red Cross to maintain a sufficient blood supply at this time of year.  Healthy, eligible donors are urged to give blood this January!

To that end, nearly 100 people capped off 2015 by donating blood in honor of Evan Minor, who was diagnosed with Acute T-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia last March.  The amount exceeded the goal set for a special Red Cross blood drive, held on December 16th at St. Alphonsus Church in Norwalk.


Dad – Dan Minor, Evan, Mom – Kristi and brother Ian

Evan has received more than 20 units of various blood products, according to his mother, Kristi Minor.  Kristi says more than 90% of Evan’s bone marrow was cancerous at the time of his diagnosis.  He has received support from many people in the community and on Facebook.

The need for blood donations is ongoing.  You can make an appointment to donate blood by logging onto redcrossblood.org.  And you can speed up the process by visiting the Red Cross Rapid Pass website.   Donors can answer questions online on the day of their appointment, before heading to the donation center. Visit redcrossblood.org/rapidpass to learn more.

Blood donors with the most recent version of the Red Cross Blood Donor App can now view their health history information, including blood pressure, hemoglobin levels and pulse rate, on their digital donor ID card within the app. The donor card in the app can also be used as a donor’s official form of identification when donating. Download the app by texting “BLOODAPP” to 90999 or searching “American Red Cross” in app stores.