A family honors husband and father who died from cancer
Throughout his life, Ed Sturm from New Ulm, Minnesota was known for his witty one-liners and his unwavering passion to help others. The 68-year-old served in the US Army, worked for New Ulm Manufacturing and Caterpillar, and later was as a truck driver. Sadly, his life ended following a long battle with cancer in 2020.
To honor his legacy of helping others, his wife Jean Sturm and daughter Rachel Sturm hosted an American Red Cross blood drive in his memory. Their family and friends rallied to show support – filling all appointment and collecting 35 pints of lifesaving blood.
Jean and Rachel both donated blood in honor of Ed at the drive. Jean, a regular blood donor, reached her 100th donation milestone! They hope the Ed Sturm Memorial Blood Drive becomes an annual event to help pay it forward and build awareness of the need for blood donations to help treat cancer patients like Ed.
“Everyone thought this was a great way to remember him because they knew his long journey and how much he struggled. Blood donation is an easy way for people to help others and give more time to another family going through the same situation,” said his daughter.
Sturm was first diagnosed in November 2012 with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer that affects plasma cells — crowding out the normal plasma cells that help fight infection. After a stem cell transplant in April 2013, Sturm’s cancer went into remission but returned in 2015. In March of 2019, their worst fear came true when Sturm was diagnosed with another form of cancer – myelodysplastic syndrome – where healthy blood cells die in the bone marrow or just after entering the bloodstream.
From March 2019 through March 2020, while trying to deal with the two different cancers, Sturm was in the emergency room multiple times getting blood transfusions because his hemoglobin dropped to dangerously low levels. But there wasn’t always blood on the shelves when he needed it.
“I didn’t realize how important blood donation was until my dad got sick and needed it.” – Rachel Sturm
His wife, Jean Sturm, recalls writing in his Caring Bridge journal in March 2020 that Ed had to wait for blood when donations declined during the pandemic. He was moved to the University of Minnesota Medical Center to help ensure blood products would be more readily available. “Cancer is a very physically & emotionally draining disease and having to worry about blood availability is just one more burden piled on,” she said.
In total, Sturm received 72 units of blood and 41 units of platelets. “These transfusions gave him the strength and endurance to withstand the chemotherapy and gave him more time with us,” said his daughter. “It was eye-opening to us that one person would need so much blood. I didn’t realize how important blood donation was until my dad got sick and needed it.”
Blood and platelets play a critical role in the treatment of cancer and other chronic diseases, as well as traumatic injuries. Patients fighting cancer need more blood than patients fighting any other disease, using nearly one-quarter of the nation’s blood supply. Healthy donors are needed to ensure that patients have lifesaving blood products available for cancer treatment, emergencies and everyday medical treatments.
To support families affected by cancer and help prevent a blood shortage this summer you can book a time to give. Simply download the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
Story by Sue Thesenga, American Red Cross. Photos provided by Sturm family.