Richard Gundelach donates platelets every two weeks, and on March 11, 2022, he reached a milestone: 600 platelet units donated.
His wife Carol baked a carrot cake to mark the occasion.
“Compared to giving (whole) blood, it’s easier,” Richard said after the donation. “People need it.”
Platelets are cell fragments in our blood that form clots and stop or prevent bleeding. They can be essential to helping patients survive surgeries such as organ transplants, and to fight cancer, chronic diseases and traumatic injuries.
During the platelet donation, the blood clotting portion of whole blood is “spun” out and the rest of the blood is returned to the donor; typically, the body replaces its platelets in 24-36 hours.
Platelets are always in short supply because they only have a shelf life of five days. Every 15 seconds, someone needs platelets.
Encouraged by a friend, Richard began donating platelets during a time of unemployment 27 years ago. He’s retired now, and he wants to continue giving regularly.
His new goal: to donate 1,000 units of platelets.
When he achieves that goal, Carol may need to bake a bigger cake!
Donors can make an appointment to give platelets, whole blood or plasma by visiting redcrossblood.org, by calling 1-800-RED CROSS, or by installing the Red Cross blood app on their smartphones.
Edited by Glenda Bogar. American Red Cross volunteer
Last Saturday was a red-letter day for me: My husband donated blood for the first time.
I’ve nagged the poor man for years to join me, but he always deferred. That seemed odd: He’s generous with his time and talents, he’s a compassionate person and he’s not needle-phobic (that I know of).
“It just wasn’t my thing, but after the years of incessant bugging, the nationwide blood shortage finally tipped the scales,” he admitted with a grin.
Fortunately, the phlebotomist we had at the American Red Cross blood drive was really skillful. I know, because she “stuck” me too.
“If you want to look away, now would be the time,” she said. “A pinch and a little burn,” and the needle was in — – with hardly a pinch a burn. Honest.
I have the Red Cross Blood Donor App on my phone and I’m looking forward to seeing where my blood goes. Will it go as a whole blood transfusion? Or will it be separated into the component parts —– plasma, platelets and red blood cells —– to potentially save three lives?
In January, the Red Cross declared a national blood crisis because the blood supply had fallen to the lowest levels in more than a decade amid the latest surge in COVID-19 cases. And severe winter weather forced the cancellation of more than 300 blood drives that month, which added to the emergency.
The crisis is impacting health care nationwide, including right here in northern Ohio. A friend of mine’s heart surgery was delayed until there was enough blood on hand of her individual blood type. Imagine how nerve-wracking that would be.
Apparently the number one reason people don’t donate blood is that they haven’t been asked, so I’ve set myself a winter goal of asking, urging, convincing at least five people to donate blood for the first time. I hope if they do it once, they’ll become repeat donors.
If you’re reading this, consider yourself asked: Please, give donating blood a try. What have you got to lose? And think of what the recipient of that blood has to gain, be they an accident victim, surgery patient, parent undergoing a difficult childbirth, or person with an on-going need, such as someone with cancer or sickle-cell disease.
To find a blood drive near you, go to http://www.redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS. Be sure to make a reservation: That cuts down on the wait time for all donors and the Red Cross certainly doesn’t want to turn anyone away.
Please, give the gift that can’t be manufactured. There is no substitute for blood, and the only way to collect it is from generous donors.
For 23 years, the Give from the Heart blood drive has been a lifesaving tradition in Northern Ohio. This year’s event was held last Tuesday, Feb. 8 at the Cleveland Marriott East in Warrensville Heights.
This blood drive came at a vital time, as the Red Cross continues to struggle with a national blood crisis. The current nationwide shortage has been further impacted by winter weather across the country, with about 600 blood drives cancelled forcing 20,000 donations to go uncollected.
Across the Northern Ohio Region, 21 blood drives were cancelled Thursday, February 3 leaving more than 730 donations uncollected.
The more than 260 donations made at the Give from the Heart blood drive will potentially help up to 800 patients.
We encourage donors to make an appointment for future blood drives by visiting redcrossblood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), or downloading the free Red Cross Blood Donor App.
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.
If you are not able to give blood, the Red Cross also needs blood drive volunteers and blood transportation specialists to support critical blood collections. Blood drive volunteers play an important role by greeting, registering, answering questions and providing information to blood donors throughout the donation process. Blood transportation specialists provide a critical link between blood donors and blood recipients by delivering blood to hospitals our local communities. To learn more and sign-up, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.
While there has been a significant and encouraging response to the dire need for blood across the nation, the American Red Cross needs more people to give in the weeks ahead to recover from its worst blood shortage in more than a decade. Those interested in helping are urged to schedule the earliest-available blood or platelet donation appointment in their area to help ensure accident victims rushed to the emergency room, those being treated for cancer and others who count on blood product transfusions can receive lifesaving care without delay.
Since the Red Cross issued its first-ever blood crisis alert, severe winter weather has further complicated efforts to rebuild the blood supply. Hundreds of blood drives have been canceled across the country, including here in Northern Ohio, due to winter storms in January, forcing about 6,500 blood and platelet donations to go uncollected.
As February approaches, and the effects from the spread of the omicron variant and winter weather persist, people are urged to make an appointment now to give blood or platelets in the weeks ahead by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
As a thank-you for coming out to help save lives during this blood crisis, Krispy Kreme is offering those who come to give blood or platelets a free Original Glazed® dozen through the end of January. To receive the free Original Glazed dozen, visit a participating Krispy Kreme shop by Jan. 31 and present a donation sticker or a digital blood donor card through the Red Cross Blood Donor App.
Those who come to give blood or platelets Feb. 1-28, 2022, will receive a $10 Amazon.com Gift Card via email, thanks to Amazon.*
“In the cancer world, I don’t think people understand how much blood product is needed and just how important it is.”
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
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:
Let your friends and family know there is an emergency blood shortage.
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.
Have you ever set a goal and reached it? How about doubling the goal and reaching that?
Now, how about knowing that in reaching those goals you’ve saved or improved the quality of life for hundreds of men, women and especially children?
Al Whitney knows that feeling: He’s donated platelets – the part of blood that creates clotting – in all 50 states. Twice! Oh, and in Canada and Australia for good measure.
“When people ask me why I do this, I just tell them, ‘You go and walk through a cancer ward and then come back and ask me why I do it’,” he said. “You’re not donating blood. You’re donating life.”
The spry 84-year-old began his life-saving career in 1965, when he saw a big Red Cross sign in downtown Cleveland that said, “Donate blood.” So he did. When he walked out, he was inspired: “Al, you can do more.”
So he started organizing regular blood drives in Avon Lake, his home town, while continuing to donate blood himself, every 56 days.
Sometime in the late 1970s or early ‘80s, he switched to donating platelets, which are always in short supply because that blood component only has a shelf life of five days. Every 15 seconds, someone with cancer, chronic disease or traumatic injuries needs platelets.
In the process of platelet donation, the blood clotting portion of whole blood is “spun” out and the rest of the blood is returned to the donor; typically, the body replaces its platelets in 24-36 hours. The FDA allows platelet donors to give 24 times a year.
In the fall of 2007, Al challenged himself to donate platelets in every state. It took him five years to reach that goal. “Al, you can do more,” whispered in his ear again. So he set out to double the feat. He hit that target in March this year, when he made a donation in Albuquerque, N.M.
“Sometimes people will tell me, ‘I don’t like needles’,” Al said. “I tell them, ‘I know how you feel. But think of that little boy in the cancer ward. Do you think he likes needles?’ ”
As of his most recent donation, on April 21, Al has given 983 units. “God willing, I’ll make it to 1,000,” he said. He looks forward to hitting that milestone this fall, at the Red Cross donation center in Cleveland.
Editor’s Note: The Red Cross currently has an emergency need for platelets and type O blood, as hospital demand for these products continues to outpace donations. Over the last year, the Red Cross has collected over 1 million units of platelets, and nearly half of those have been provided to patients undergoing cancer treatment. More platelet donors are needed to continue to meet these needs.
By Christy Peters, Regional Communications Manager
It’s that time of year, when many of us are reaching for Kleenex, sipping hot tea and hoping our “slight” headache isn’t the start of something worse. And, as COVID-19 cases rise across the country, the occasional sniffle and cough fills many with more dread than usual.
If you’re one of the fortunate individuals still in tip-top shape, your good health could be a gift to patients who depend on blood transfusions. In order to give blood, donors must be feeling healthy and well on the day of their donation. As illness spreads, the number of eligible blood donors decreases. However, the need for blood is constant. Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood and the Red Cross must collect nearly 13,000 blood donations and more than 2,600 platelet donations every day for patients at about 2,500 hospitals nationwide, including 80 hospitals in northern Ohio.
The Red Cross is encouraging all who are healthy and well to consider making a blood, platelet or plasma donation in the coming weeks. If you have fully recovered from COVID-19, you can help patients who are currently fighting the disease by giving convalescent plasma. Convalescent plasma is a type of blood donation that contains antibodies that might help patients actively fighting the virus. An increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations has caused the Red Cross to distribute a record number of convalescence plasma products in the past month. In fact, our hospital distributions of convalescent plasma increased 250% in November compared to September. To learn more about giving convalescent plasma visit RedCrossBlood.org/plasma4covid.
To ensure a great donation experience, make sure you get a good night’s sleep before you give, drink plenty of fluids and eat a healthy meal before giving. You should also continue to drink plenty of fluids after your donation. In the time between donations, make sure to eat iron-rich foods such as fish, poultry, spinach and broccoli. If you have questions about your ability to give, you can review all the eligibility requirements on the Red Cross website or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
If you’ve been fortunate enough to avoid colds, flu and COVID-19 so far this season, please consider giving blood for patients in need. Good health is a gift – please share it with those who need it most.
A Blood Donor Ambassador’s advice for a great experience when donating blood
Prepare your body with food and extra water. Eat a meal within four hours of donating and avoid caffeinated beverages.
Prepare for a ‘walk through’ experience. Do the Rapid Pass (the reading and the questions) on the same day. Less waiting time for all donors. Another benefit. You contribute towards more donors saving lives.
The Donor App is available for smartphones and tablets. Safe guard your read and question/answer time. Do a ‘screen shot’ of your QR (scanning square). Avoids having to redo the Rapid Pass, again. Text BLOODAPP to 90999 or search Red Cross Blood in your app store. The Donor app has your ‘Donor ID card’ and the ‘Start Rapid Pass’. Other helpful and interesting features included in the app.
On computer with printing or e-mail capability: redcrossblood.org/RapidPass.
Trouble accessing your Donor app or account? Call Red Cross for IT help (1-800-733-2767). Consider the ‘remember me’ feature for auto-login.
–Paul Wadowick, American Red Cross Blood Donor Ambassador and Communications Volunteer