No more donor deferrals related to ‘mad cow’ concerns

John Dowell, blood donor

By EILENE E. GUY, American Red Cross volunteer

During this National Blood Donor Month, I’d like to salute American Red Cross blood donor John Dowell, even though he out-ranks me.

John, who makes his home in Lakewood, finished his service in the U.S. Air Force as a senior airman/sergeant. When he returned to civilian life, he tried to donate blood but couldn’t because he had been at RAF Upper Heyford near Oxford, England, from March 1981 to March 1983.

For decades, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned blood donations from folks who had spent time in certain European countries during the 1980s and ‘90s, to prevent transmission of a deadly brain infection commonly known as “mad cow disease.”

The Red Cross, of course, respected that ban, which meant turning away potentially hundreds of thousands of donors, including many in the military community who had served overseas.

Last year, the FDA lifted the final section of its “mad cow” ban after finding there had been no reported cases of the brain disease associated with time spent in the United Kingdom, France and Ireland.

“As soon as I heard about it (lifting of the ban), I was right down there to donate the next day,” John said.

John comes from a family of dedicated blood donors – mom, dad and sister – so he started donating when he was in high school. “I was just a couple of pints short of a gallon when I went into the air force,” he said.

John Dowell donating blood 2022

“I believe in it. It’s important to have that spare blood on the shelf,” he said. “I don’t try to recruit people – if you want to donate, fine. If not, I’ve got your back,” he added with a chuckle.

But John is active in a couple of Facebook groups populated by the military community. When he posted about the lifting of the “mad cow” donor ban, “I got a big response, an overwhelming response. ‘Hey, that’s great to know. Thanks for putting out the word’,” his Facebook friends replied.

So, I want to salute Sgt. John Dowell for his service, in uniform and as a civilian, doing his bit to be sure there’s “blood on the shelf” for those who need a lifesaving transfusion.

If you, or someone you know – military or civilian – has been deferred from giving blood because of the “mad cow” (variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease) criteria, you can contact the Red Cross Donor and Client Support Center at 1-866-236-3276 for more information.

During National Blood Donor Month, please consider joining the ranks of folks, young and old, who serve their country in a profound way. I salute you.

To find a blood drive near you, go to http://www.redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS.

Posted by Ryan Lang, American Red Cross volunteer and board member

This is the way to start a New Year

By Doug Bardwell, Red Cross volunteer

If this were a typical January, we’d still be talking about how difficult it is to maintain New Year’s resolutions, how The Ohio State Buckeyes coulda/shoulda won the NCAA College Football National Championship, and who’s going to make it to the Super Bowl. (Spoiler alert – not the Browns.)

January is also National Blood Donor Month, celebrating all those who volunteer to donate blood and platelets to help save lives. But due to recent weather events, those precious donors are even more critical than ever.

Approximately 10 Red Cross blood drives across Northern Ohio were canceled due to extreme weather during the week of Christmas in December. These cancellations resulted in a shortfall of more than 260 blood donations.  Many more blood drives were canceled elsewhere across the country due to the weather, resulting in even more potential donations going uncollected.

Christy Peters, blood donor and Regional Communications Manager with the American Red Cross

This isn’t a typical January

Instead, our thoughts and prayers tonight were centered on those on the west coast. Four years ago this week, I volunteered with the Red Cross for the horrific Paradise fire outside Chico, California. It was so dry there that the fires spread faster than firefighters could manage, and there wasn’t enough water to save the town.

Now it’s too much water, as California braces for repeated ‘atmospheric rivers’ and ‘bomb cyclones,’ where 10 percent of the US population is under severe storm advisories. Think about that – 10% of our entire country is in fear of weather catastrophes, from flooding to sinkholes to landslides.

Red Cross workers outside a shelter in Northern California

For the Red Cross, many more blood drives could be canceled over the next week as those gigantic rain events cross the state and people try to find safe roads to escape the floodwaters.

But the need doesn’t stop

Winter is typically one of the most challenging times to collect blood products, even without the insane weather. So, now would be an ideal time to make a New Year’s resolution that can save up to three lives with each of your donations. A typical whole blood donation takes less than 30 minutes.

Donors of all types are needed, particularly type O donors, the most needed blood type by hospitals for emergency surgeries. Statistics show that one in seven patients entering a hospital needs a blood transfusion, yet only 3% of Americans actually donate.

Now’s the time

Whether you are a first-timer or a returning hero, everyone who donates before January 31 will be automatically entered to win a trip for two to Super Bowl LVII in Arizona, with pre-game activities, game day tickets, airfare, three-night hotel accommodations, and $500 gift card.

Join a winning team – make a blood or platelet donation. Book now using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Donate blood or platelets now to help patients avoid delays in care

As we welcome 2022, the American Red Cross blood supply has now dipped to the lowest level in more than a decade and could force hospitals to hold off on essential blood and platelet transfusions for patients in Northern Ohio and across the country.  

The troubling decline of the Red Cross blood supply, which supports about 40% of the nation’s blood needs, comes at a time of year when donations typically fall. Holiday get togethers, school breaks and winter weather often lead to lower donor turnout, potentially further compounding the situation. The critical role of blood and platelet donors has been celebrated each January for nearly 50 years during National Blood Donor Month. If you’ve never given blood before or if it’s been a while now is the perfect time to start helping save lives!

The need for healthy blood donors is also important as Northern Ohio, like many communities across the country saw a significant rise in COVID-19 cases during the month of December. If you are feeling healthy and well, please consider sharing your good health by giving blood. If you received the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine or booster there is no deferral time to give blood. Additionally, there is also no deferral after a flu vaccine, as long as you are symptom-free and feeling well the day of donation.

Once again, the Red Cross is partnering with the NFL to thank donors during the month of January. Come to give blood or platelets Jan. 1-31 and you’ll automatically get a chance to score an exciting Super Bowl LVI getaway in LA for you and a guest! Plus, the Red Cross will give you a shot at a home theater package and $500 e-gift card in January. Terms apply; visit RedCrossBlood.org/SuperBowl for more information. 

Potential donors are urged to schedule an appointment now by using the Red Cross
Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733- 2767). If there is not an immediate opportunity to donate, please make an appointment in the days and weeks ahead to ensure the Red Cross can replenish and then maintain a sufficient blood supply.

The Need Never Ends

Red Cross issues urgent call for blood and platelet donors

This January, National Blood Donor Month, the American Red Cross has an urgent need for blood and platelet donors of all blood types to make an appointment to give now and help address a winter blood donation shortage. Severe winter weather, in addition to seasonal illnesses and hectic holiday schedules have collectively contributed to more than 28,000 fewer donations than what was needed in November and December.

There is a critical need for the following blood and donation types right now:

  • Platelets: The clotting portion of blood primarily given to cancer patients during treatment and always in great demand.
  • Type O negative: The blood type that can be transfused to almost everyone and is what doctors reach for in trauma situations.
  • Type B negative: The blood type that can be transfused to type B Rh-positive and negative patients.
  • Type AB: The plasma type that can be transfused to almost everyone and can be donated through a platelet or plasma donation, where available, or during a regular blood donation.

Right now, blood and platelet donations are being distributed to hospitals as fast as they come in. The Red Cross must collect more than 13,000 blood and platelet donations every day for patients at about 2,600 hospitals and transfusion centers nationwide.

Eligible donors can find a blood platelet donation opportunity and schedule an appointment to donate by using the free Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Donation appointments and completion of a RapidPass are encouraged to help speed up the donation process. RapidPass lets donors complete the pre-donation reading and answer the health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, by visiting redcrossblood.org/rapidpass from the convenience of a mobile device or computer, or through the Blood Donor App.