Infographic – Blood Donors and Diversity

People come in all different shapes, sizes and blood types. Most blood types fall into one of the four major groups: A, B, AB, O. However, some people have rare blood types that fall outside the major groups, and for these patients, we need a more diverse blood supply.

For example, blood donors who are Black play a critical role to help ensure patients with sickle cell disease have continued access to the treatments they need. You can make a difference in the life of someone with sickle cell disease.

Black donors are more likely to be deferred due to low hemoglobin. This deferral is temporary and is to help protect the health of both the donor and the recipient. To help avoid a blood donation deferral due to low hemoglobin, the Red Cross recommends that individuals who have low iron levels begin preparing for their blood donations six to eight weeks prior to their appointment. This is because it can take several weeks for the body to absorb iron. We encourage anyone interested in donating blood to consult with their healthcare provider about taking multivitamins with 18 mg of iron. In addition, eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet with foods rich in iron and in vitamin C helps to maintain healthy iron levels.

Make your appointment.

Home Fire Relief – Brainerd, Minnesota

Red Cross volunteers assist Brainerd couple after home fire

When a fire broke out at Tom Phillips’s home, he worried he and his fiance, Jenny Tienter, might have to spend the night in his car.

However, a team of volunteers with the Red Cross reached out to Phillips and his fiance to ensure they had a place to stay and provided them with other forms of assistance. In times of need, countless volunteers with the Red Cross assist people like Phillips and his fiance, who have been displaced by house fires.

“Without (the volunteers) I would’ve really been in a hard spot. They helped me out considerably,” Phillips said.

The Jan. 27 fire in Brainerd, Minnesota, began when a camping stove Phillips was using to prepare breakfast blew up. Phillips managed to get his fiance out of their burning home but unfortunately wasn’t able to get out his basset hound, Delilah.

“I miss her dearly,” he said, of Delilah. “That’s one loss I’m still trying to recover from, and I’m sure I never really will.”

Family photo of Delilah

Phillips said the Red Cross volunteers, including Dana Dimit, assisted him and his fiance in getting their lives back on track. He said he’s talked with the volunteers frequently, and they answered his questions and connected him with resources, including a mental health support group to help him cope with the loss of his dog.

Dimit has been volunteering with the Red Cross for nearly five years.

“The minute I retired I joined the Red Cross,” the former technology consultant said.

Dimit said she decided to volunteer in part because she wanted to “do something completely different,” that was “more people-oriented” and didn’t involve technology.

Dimit primarily works as a disaster responder with the Red Cross, but also does orientation for new volunteers and has been assisting with setting up a new internal system for tracking house fires.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Dimit has shifted to doing intake for fires that occur in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, gathering information about the fires and talking with those who have been displaced.

Dana Dimit

Dimit makes herself available, even in the middle of the night. She recalled a recent phone call she received late at night from someone displaced by fire who said they didn’t have any shoes or a place to go, so she helped ensure they had a place to stay.

 “If I don’t know what’s going on, I worry about them,” she said.

Despite losing his house and his belongings, Phillips said he’s trying to remain optimistic. Without the Red Cross, he said, he wouldn’t be where he is today.

“I couldn’t have done it without them,” he said.

Story by Blair Emerson – Red Cross volunteer

Home Fire Relief – Rapid City, South Dakota

‘That’s just what the Red Cross does’

Since Gene Rossman lost his home in a Feb. 27 fire, a volunteer with the Red Cross has called him weekly to check on him.

Rossman said when he last saw his home in Rapid City, South Dakota, it was “a ball of flames.” The fire destroyed his home and his belongings, including items his late mother crocheted and her cookbooks. He said he was left with nothing but the clothes he “had on (his) back.”

“Other stuff I can replace. I can’t replace that stuff,” he said, of his mother’s possessions.

Despite losing his home in the fire, luckily, neither he, his 16-year-old son or his two dogs were home when the fire broke out.

Photo used with permission from Johnson Siding Volunteer Fire Department, Pennington County, South Dakota

Since the fire, Rossman said he’s thankful for the calls he’s received from a volunteer with the Red Cross.

“They’ve done a good job. I guess that’s just what the Red Cross does,” he said.

Red Cross volunteers like the one who helped Rossman and countless other volunteers respond to home and apartment fires, assisting displaced residents. Volunteers make up about 90 percent of the American Red Cross workforce, and they respond to an average of more than 60,000 disasters every year.

Rossman said he is now undertaking the difficult task of trying to build a new home, but said he’s been grateful for the “wonderful” support he’s received from the Red Cross.

Story by Blair Emerson – Red Cross volunteer

Home Fire Relief – Winner, South Dakota

Red Cross assists families affected by Jan. 31 fire in Winner, S.D.

On Jan. 31, 2021, Lorelei Mendoza awoke to news her home of four years had been destroyed by a fire.

Lorelei was among 11 people displaced by a fire that broke out in the early morning hours at a five-plex in Winner, a small rural town located in south-central South Dakota. The American Red Cross provided disaster relief to the tenants.

Lorelei and her one-year-old son and two-year-old daughter were staying at a relative’s house when the fire broke out at the complex. When Lorelei learned of the fire, she went to assess the damage.

“(The fire) pretty much got out of hand, and there was pretty much nothing they could do until the fire department showed up and put it out,” she recalled.

Family photo

Lorelei said most of her belongings at her house were damaged by water used to put out the fire. The five-plex has been deemed a total loss, she said. Lorelei said her sister, who had moved into a unit adjacent to Lorelei’s just two days prior to the fire, was also displaced by the fire.

The item Lorelei misses most that was destroyed in the fire? “My home,” she said.

Lorelei said she’s grateful for the financial support she received from the Red Cross as she moves forward with trying to find new housing suitable for her and her children.

Story by Blair Emerson – Red Cross volunteer

“Without the blood I needed, I may not have survived.”

Crediting blood with saving his life, Bryan Joas advocates for blood donations.

Shauna and Bryan Joas at the March 5, 2021, Joas Strong 5th anniversary blood drive held at Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan, Minn.

While riding his bicycle home from work in 2016, Bryan Joas was involved in a hit-and-run accident. He suffered life-threatening injuries including a broken back, hips and ribs, and damaged lungs, liver, kidney, and intestines. He needed 12 surgeries during his 88-day hospital stay and received nearly 50 transfusions of blood products that helped save his life.

“Without the blood I needed, I may not have survived,” says Bryan. “I’m grateful to blood donors for ensuring there was blood on the shelves when my life was on the line.”

Five years later, Bryan spends little time thinking about the accident or that the vehicle driver has never been found. He chooses to focus on his health, family and replenishing the blood supply that was used to save his life. Bryan and his wife, Shauna, are both advocates for blood donations. “It’s important to me to help pay it forward. I’m living proof that blood helps save lives, and I urge anyone who is able to donate,” says Bryan.

To make an appointment to give blood dowload the Red Cross Blood Donor App or visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS  (1-800-733-2767).

For patients in the emergency room, fighting cancer or facing a life-threatening illness, help can’t wait. Blood donations are essential. Healthy donors are needed now to ensure that patients have lifesaving blood products available for emergency and everyday medical treatments. 

Blood donation safety precautions

To protect the health and safety of Red Cross staff and donors, individuals who do not feel well or who believe they may be ill with COVID-19 should postpone their donation.

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including temperature checks, social distancing and face coverings for donors and staff – 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 and are required to wear a face covering or mask while at the drive, in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public guidance.  

April is National Volunteer Month

April is National Volunteer Month – the perfect time to give blood, platelets or plasma. There’s no substitute for volunteer donors: Blood cannot be manufactured. In thanks, come to give by 4/30 to be entered for a chance to win a $1,000 e-gift card. Give: rcblood.org/Gift

Story and photo by Sue Thesenga, American Red Cross, Minnesota and Dakotas Region

Red Cross volunteer helps hundreds, deepens purpose while supporting COVID-19 condolence call center

On a Monday in late January, the American Red Cross virtual condolence care center for people grieving loved ones lost to COVID-19 did not stop getting calls. In fact, the center was bombarded with around 25 calls taken by two volunteers, including Rose Olmsted.

“The people who are calling us don’t have a support system,” says Rose, a Disaster Mental Health volunteer who took calls that day from her home in Albert Lea, Minnesota.

The calls come mostly from diverse communities, especially in Texas, California and other states hard hit with COVID deaths. Some have buried two or three family members, while others have had four or even five loved ones sick from the disease.

Established by the Red Cross in 2020 as the pandemic settled in, the Virtual Family Assistance Center (VFAC) provides free emotional, health and spiritual guidance to those most in need. It’s also a source for referrals to other coronavirus assistance.

Rose Olmsted. Submitted photo.

Rose has served as a disaster mental health volunteer since 2009. For this role, she was vetted, and then had an additional two-weeks of orientation. During her shifts, she has a supervisor and manager available to consult with. Since going active with the call center last fall, Rose has spoken to hundreds of people.

“I want to take these calls from the disadvantaged. They are my kind of people, the poor, minorities, people disadvantaged by income, access to technology, access to transportation, limited health care or chronic health conditions.”

Rose spends most of her time listening. People are in a state of grief and incredible anxiety. Some are especially stressed because loved ones died without them at hospitals or suddenly at home. Rose listens without interruption.

At the end of one call Rose remembers a woman, after sharing a deeply personal story of tragic, long-term loss and grief, experienced simple peace and gratitude just because someone, in this case a volunteer named Rose, listened to her story.  

Image from Red Cross condolence card.

Listening can take a toll, even on experienced and trained professionals like Rose. Her regular social activities are limited because of the pandemic so she’s turned to live, online concerts, daily meditation and intentional connecting with friends.  

“People ask, why do you want to keep doing this? If you have to ask me, then…”  Her voice trails off. The work continues to bring Rose great purpose even while the calls get harder and the pandemic’s impact deepens in communities across the country.

Access the American Red Cross Virtual Family Assistance Center. People without internet access can call 833-492-0094 for help between 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday - Friday local time to speak with a trained Red Cross volunteer in English or Spanish. Callers in immediate crisis should call 911 or a hotline like the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Callers also can find crisis support through the national Disaster Distress Helpline.   
Help and support are available for people from any state, county, territory or tribal nation. Frontline responders, such as healthcare workers, workers at long-term care facilities, and other essential personnel dealing with families of COVID-19 patients, are welcome to call as well for free individual and group support.
Download the American Red Cross Guidebook for Grieving Families. Download Resources for Community Leaders. 

Story by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Self-care tips to keep you happy and healthy this winter

By Vanessa Racine, Canadian Red Cross social media coordinator

Colder temperatures. Less light. Rain, snow. It can sometimes be difficult to stay cheery during the winter in a country like Canada! Some Canadians enjoy the season because it gives them a good excuse – if not forces them – to do something that we tend to neglect: to take time out for ourselves, and ourselves alone.

Refocusing on yourself is extremely important and should regularly be made a priority. It lets you reflect, build your self-esteem, and feel good about yourself. Since we’re at home most of the time, winter is the perfect season to learn how to take time for yourself, live a calmer life, make room for your passions – and discover new ones.

Here are self-care tips to help you stay healthy this winter:

1. Read – one of the best ways to escape and spark your imagination.
2. Do a hands-on activity – knit, paint, sew or tackle a DIY project. Building or creating something with your own two hands can give you a real sense of pride.
3. Take a bubble bath – for even deeper relaxation, pair it with a good book and/or music.
4. Turn your phone all the way off – at least for one day a week.
5. Get involved with an organization that works for a cause that’s important to you — why not with the Red Cross?
6. Get active – whether you opt for something calming or energizing, regular exercise improves your physical and mental well-being.
7. Whip up a homemade hot chocolate – or another little sweet treat for your taste buds.
8. Light candles – the warm glow and fragrance make for the perfect calming atmosphere.
9. Play board games – dig out that old Monopoly set or deck of cards and have a blast rediscovering old classics!
10. Do a face and hair mask once a week – or go all out with an at-home spa day.
11. Sort through your stuff – clean out your closets! Throwing away, selling, or donating items does wonders and helps you feel more at home, since your space is less cluttered.
12. Cook up a homemade meal – from the cuisine of your choice, prepared with love from start to finish.
13. Learn a language – even if it’s just the basics of a language you’ve always dreamed of learning. It’s good to challenge yourself in a healthy way, and best of all, it’s useful.
14. Make a list – of fashion, travel, positive thoughts… it doesn’t matter what the list is about, just as long as it motivates and inspires you.
15. Put on some music and dance.

I hope that you’ll draw inspiration from these self-care tips and take care of yourself on the daily. And don’t forget, stress is a part of modern life and is a normal reaction to change. To limit the harmful effects of stress on your mental or physical health, it’s important to learn to live a healthy lifestyle, and if needed, to not hesitate to ask loved ones or health professionals for help. Doing so will make you more likely to stay zen!

For more well-being resources, click here and here. By the way, a near identical version of this post originally appeared on the Canadian Red Cross blog, which means this post is published here with permission from the Canadian Red Cross. Thank you!

You could be an MVP for people who need lifesaving blood, platelets or convalescent plasma

Kick off the year by making a lifesaving donation this National Blood Donor Month

The American Red Cross and the NFL are partnering this January, during National Blood Donor Month, to urge individuals – especially those who have recovered from COVID-19 – to give blood and to help tackle the national convalescent plasma shortage. 

The Red Cross has teamed up with the NFL to offer those who come to give blood, platelets or plasma, Jan. 1-31, 2021, a chance to win a getaway to the 2022 Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles. As an extra thank-you from the Red Cross, those who come to give Jan. 1-20, 2021, will also be automatically entered to win a Big Game at Home package, which includes a 65-inch television and $500 gift card toward food and fun so their household can enjoy an awesome viewing experience safely at home. Terms apply; visit RedCrossBlood.org/SuperBowl for more information. 

Two ways COVID-19 survivors can help  

Health emergencies don’t pause for holidays, game days or a pandemic – blood is needed every two seconds in the U.S. to help patients battling injury and illness. As COVID-19 cases have risen across the U.S., so has the need for convalescent plasma – leading to a shortage of this potentially lifesaving blood product.  

There are two ways those who have recovered from COVID-19 can make a big difference: 

A convalescent plasma donation: The Red Cross is collecting convalescent plasma at over 170 locations throughout the country. If you’ve recovered from COVID-19, you may be eligible to donate your plasma to help others going through COVID-19 treatment. Fill out the eligibility form to start the process. 

A whole blood donation: Plasma from whole blood donations that test positive for COVID-19 antibodies may be used to help COVID-19 patients. Make an appointment to give blood by downloading the free Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).   

Thanks for considering lifesaving blood, platelets or plasma donation for patients!

Thanks to Emily for making such a huge impact and helping the Red Cross maintain a stable blood supply through the holiday season and this winter!

Leslie Johnson and her daughter Emily Johnson, Mankato, Minnesota.

We’re happy to share with you a story that KEYC-News in Mankato recently aired entitled: LCWM senior advocates for blood donations by sharing personal story.

Emily Johnson, a senior at Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial High School is hosting her second blood drive this year because she credits blood with helping save her mom’s life.

“My mom is my inspiration and I’m grateful she is alive,” said Emily Johnson. “If blood had not been available when she needed it, she might not be here today – I might not have had my mom growing up. It’s my honor to be able to promote blood donation and help pay it forward to others in need.”

In 2005, when Emily was just two years old her mother, Leslie Johnson, was in a farming accident that left her with broken bones including a shattered pelvis in five places, her right leg was severely injured and detached from her spine, a severed artery in her abdomen and head trauma. The injuries caused massive bleeding and she received platelets while being airlifted to the hospital.

Leslie Johnson underwent surgery that same day to repair the severed artery and head trauma. She received nine units of blood in the first 24 hours. She spent the next six days in an induced coma and received additional units of blood. Eleven days later following a second surgery to repair her crushed pelvis she was discharged from the hospital. The next three months were spent in a wheelchair and learning to walk again.

“I am so proud of Emily,” said her mother. “She is such an amazing young woman and is making a positive impact in this world!”

Leslie Johnson is facing another surgery to fully replace both of her hip sockets that were also crushed in the accident and may need additional blood products.

Thanks to Emily for making such a huge impact and helping the Red Cross maintain a stable blood supply through the holiday season and this winter.

Make your blood, platelets or convalescent plasma donation today.

10 Ways to Prevent Home Fires as You Deck the Halls this Holiday Season

Prevent home fires through holiday decorating safely

We want you to stay safe from home fires—the nation’s most frequent disaster—by testing your smoke alarms (English, Spanish) and practicing your home fire escape plan. In addition, we have these 10 simple safety tips as you put up lights and ornaments:

  1. Check all holiday light cords to make sure they aren’t frayed or broken. Don’t string too many strands of lights together—no more than three per extension cord.
  2. If you’re buying an artificial tree, look for the fire-resistant label. When putting it up, keep it away from fireplaces, radiators and other sources of heat.
  3. If you’re getting a live tree, make sure it’s fresh and water it to keep it fresh. Bend the needles up and down to make sure no needles fall off.
  4. If you’re using older decorations, check their labels. Some older tinsel is lead-based. If using angel hair, wear gloves to avoid irritation. Avoid breathing in artificial snow.
  5. When decorating outside, make sure decorations are for outdoor use and fasten lights securely to your home or trees. If you’re using hooks or nails outside, make sure they are insulated to avoid an electrocution or fire hazard.
  6. If you’re using a ladder, be extra careful. Make sure to have good, stable placement and wear shoes that allow for good traction.
  7. Don’t use electric lights on metallic trees.
  8. Remember to turn off all holiday lights when going to bed or leaving the house.
  9. Keep children, pets and decorations away from candles.
  10. If you’re hanging stockings on the fireplace mantel, don’t light the fireplace.