Dean Brooks: Why I Donate Blood to the Red Cross

I’ve been donating blood to the American Red Cross ever since I was 17 years old.

I’m not sure what attracted me initially to contributing to this non-profit that has been around since 1881. It may have been a desire to give something essential that wasn’t simply money.

I was just a high schooler after all, working at a Save-A-Lot supermarket in upstate Pennsylvania on the weekends at the time. I wasn’t exactly flush with cash.

It may have been a desire to finally overcome my fear of needles. I’d suffered a crippling syringe-phobia ever since I was five and had to be strapped down to the examination table for a booster shot.

Certainly not a preferred early childhood memory.

Probably it had to do with the idea that the simple action of giving a pint of my blood could help someone’s life, or even several people’s lives. That appealed to me more than giving other things, like money, time, or labor. As the Red Cross states, “Blood and platelets cannot be manufactured; they can only come from volunteer donors.”

Since that initial decision to donate blood, I’ve given 23 times.

If I’m able to donate about four times a year for, say, the next 30 years or so, that means I could potentially donate up to almost 15 gallons of blood. I’ve given nearly three so far. You can donate whole blood every 56 days. While it would be great to be able to make it in perfectly on cue, it doesn’t always work out that way.

I’d like to donate 20 gallons of blood over my lifetime. I think that’s a reasonable goal.

When I lived in Philadelphia I donated like clockwork every two months at the donation center on Spring Garden street near Center City. On the way back home, I’d drive past John F. Kennedy Plaza, aka Love Park, and admire the famous red sign with the swooning letter “O.”

After moving to Williston, ND during the oil boom my donations became less frequent. Sometimes, when my work schedule allows, I’m able to make the blood drives that take place on occasion in nearby Sidney or Fairview, MT.

Other times in the past, I’ve actually driven six hours to Saint Cloud, MN to donate at the Red Cross center located in town. The phlebotomists there are friendly, and often they ask where I’m coming from. So when I mention Williston, they give me these weird looks. You drove six hours just to donate blood? At the Red Cross? Aren’t there places closer you can donate? Yeah. There’s United Blood Services, but I don’t give there. I’m a bit of a loyalist. The Red Cross takes me back to high school.

Hey, everyone’s sentimental about something. Music, movies, wine. You stick a Red Cross needle in my arm to draw blood, and suddenly I’m feeling nostalgic.

– Dean Brooks, a loyal and dedicated Red Cross blood donor

While it’s nice to donate blood and know I may have helped save somebody’s life, I also do it because it makes me feel good. I follow a strict dietary ritual the day before, eating foods rich in iron. Lots of fruits and vegetables. A big breakfast.

And, of course, drinking plenty of water. Always make sure you are well-hydrated before donating blood.

Seriously, I’m like an athlete prepping for a big game before I give blood. You’ve probably never met someone as excited to have their blood drained as me the day before a draw.

Giving blood compels me to stay active and in shape. When you donate you receive a mini-physical. They take your temperature, measure your hemoglobin levels, and take your pulse. When you go in for your appointment, the technicians there will have you fill out a lengthy health screening questionnaire.

While the Red Cross check-up is not a substitute for a full-body one by your doctor, it’s a good, cheap way to keep an eye on your health.

The Red Cross screens your blood before giving it to anybody, so if you have a disease or some kind of health problem, they’ll tell you. In my last donation, the Red Cross informed me that I had developed reactive+ Covid-19 antibodies. This means, according to the Red Cross anti-body test results page, that, “Antibody levels were detected at levels high enough that your plasma may be used as convalescent plasma.”

So, hopefully my blood went to someone who needed a leg up fighting that virus.

I have been told by several doctors that I have “great blood.” Which is no surprise. I work hard eating right and staying fit. I expect my crimson essence to be premium 94 octane.

I also think those who donate like me do so out of some unconscious need to affirm their own health and vitality. Some guys rip down the highway at 80 MPH on a Kawasaki motorcycle to “feel alive.” Me, I have a needle stuck in my arm to drain off a pint. It may not make for a Red Bull commercial, but donating blood is essential for millions of people every year who need transfusions or blood components to survive.

There’s also a very cool thing the Red Cross does that makes the ordeal worth it. They let you know where your blood donation went.

Usually just a few weeks or so after your donation, the Red Cross will send you an email with a message like the one above. It’s uplifting to know not just that your donation helps, but specifically where it did so.

Have you donated blood before? Or given thought to doing so? I know a lot of people are held back due to fear of needles, or concerns they’ll pass out or get sick.

Yeah, I’ve been there myself.

The whole blood donation process is mostly painless. I won’t lie, though. Sometimes it can hurt. It usually depends on the person sticking the needle in your arm. There’s a lot of finesse to finding the vein and inserting the syringe just right. I’ve had experiences where I barely felt anything. Other times the technician had to go digging around to find the right spot, and left me with black and blue marks. That sucked.

But look at it this way. You’re almost certainly going to have to have blood drawn at some point in your life anyway. Especially as you get older. You’ve probably already had blood work done up after an appointment.

At least if you get into the habit of donating regularly, you’ll get used to it. And you’ll be saving lives along the way. You might even become a freak like me and actually enjoy giving blood.

The technicians at the Red Cross are considerate professionals. They’ll make sure everything goes smoothly. It’s normal to feel light-headed after a blood draw. Having blood taken effects everyone differently. I’ve only had one instance where I felt like I was going to faint. That was likely due to being underfed and dehydrated before going in for my appointment. But the process has generally been a smooth one for me over my twenty-plus year Red Cross blood donation career.

This is why it’s so important to eat right and drink plenty of water before going in. Check out the Red Cross page on Tips for a Successful Blood Donation for more important details.

Republished with permission from Dean Brooks, novelist. His original post was dated June 14, 2022, on World Blood Donor Day, when Brooks completed his 25th blood donation. World Blood Donor Day is a day the American Red Cross joins blood collection organizations around the world to recognize the importance of a safe and stable blood supply and the donors who generously give to help save lives and enhance solidarity in communities.

Three friends, one mission

How Annie, Liana and Katie are turning their life-threatening childbirth experiences into advocacy and awareness for blood donation.

Annie, Liana and Katie (pictured from left to right) all experienced devastating amniotic fluid embolisms during childbirth and collectively needed over 100 units of blood products.

Most of us have never heard of amniotic fluid embolism (AFE). Neither had Annie, Katie and Liana, three women from the Minneapolis and St. Paul metro area. They met through the AFE Foundation because they all experienced an AFE during childbirth. Their stories are different, but they all credit blood with helping to save their lives. Together, they needed over 100 units of lifesaving blood products. To raise awareness about AFE, they are sharing their stories and hosting a blood drive to help ensure blood products are available for others who need lifesaving transfusions.

AFE is a rare and serious condition – occurring in about 1 in 40,000 births in the U.S. It’s sudden. It’s unexpected. It’s life-threatening. AFE causes birth complications that affect both mother and baby during labor or shortly after delivery. It’s thought to be the result of an allergic-like reaction to the amniotic fluid that enters the mother’s bloodstream. It can result in the mother going into respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, and DIC. Some women also experience strokes.

Meet these three strong, brave and remarkable women who are AFE survivors and who, not too long ago, were total strangers.

Meet Annie – On March 23, 2020, just 12 days after COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, Annie had an emergency cesarean section and went into cardiac arrest. A code blue was called, CPR and shocks were administered, but her heart continued to fail. She entered disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), which causes blood to clot where it shouldn’t and then hemorrhage where clotting is necessary.

A massive blood transfusion was called for. Annie received about 25 units of blood products to replace the blood she lost.

“You just never think you’ll be the one in need. I had never donated blood before but made my first donation last September after I knew how important it was.”

Her son Henry was born without a pulse and quickly taken to the neonatal intensive care unit for treatment.

After over two weeks of unresponsiveness, Annie woke up and had paralysis on her right side and confusion about what had happened – she had no memory of going to the hospital to give birth and even thought she had miscarried.

An MRI revealed that Annie had suffered numerous strokes and bleeds. Following additional complications, set-backs and being isolated from her husband and family due to COVID-19 restrictions, the doctors said she would likely have long-term physical and cognitive disabilities and would require months of treatment in a rehab facility.

Annie met Henry for the first time in the rehab facility and six days later was able to go home. Henry doesn’t seem to have been impacted by the circumstances of his birth – his MRI was normal, and he is developing beautifully.

Although Annie has survived AFE physically unscathed and has returned to work recently, she says the “emotional wounds are deep and ones I’ll likely carry for the rest of my life. Something like this shouldn’t happen on the best day of your life.”  

Meet Katie – In August 2017, at 41+ weeks pregnant, Katie went in for her scheduled induction – anxious to meet her baby daughter. Once her water broke, everything went dark. Katie went in and out of consciousness but remembers the chaos going on around her as they wheeled her into the operating room for an emergency cesarian section.  

Three days later she woke up in the ICU and found out that she had an AFE followed by DIC, which required her to receive 50+ units of blood products. 

“I’ve donated blood once or twice before – and I’m filled with tremendous gratitude on how many people had to donate for me and how much more need there is out there.”

Her newborn daughter had suffered complications too and was transferred to a local children’s hospital for treatment. A week later, Katie was finally able to meet and hold her precious girl. It was the most unbelievable moment — “one I’ll never forget,” she says. On day 10, her daughter was cleared to go home, and Katie was hospitalized for an additional 15 days.

Once home, the littlest tasks were difficult – going up and down stairs, taking a shower, or changing one diaper. After two weeks at home, Katie was back in the hospital with bi-lateral pulmonary embolisms and was in and out of the hospital for a couple months with various other complications.

Katie went on to have a subsequent pregnancy and complication free delivery with her second child in April 2020.

Meet Liana – In January 2019, right before her delivery, a very pregnant Liana recalls a feeling that something was wrong. Her husband tried to reassure her, saying that the humans have been having babies for millions of years and that all would be okay. She wrote off her feelings as the jitters for a first-time mother.

Liana was induced at 38 weeks and was excited to meet her baby. Her fear turned real when she experienced complications during delivery. Liana’s blood pressure plummeted followed by massive hemorrhaging, coding, seizing and a stroke. Doctors performed an emergency cesarean section and Liana required more than 10 units of blood products. Her daughter Lydia was born with no heart rate.

“Blood is the ultimate gift – it helped save my life!”

When Liana woke up in the ICU she could hardly move or speak. She tried, but nothing came out. She was told she had given birth and had a daughter named Lydia. “So many thoughts were racing through my mind. No matter how much I wanted to talk, I couldn’t. So, I just cried.”

Liana spent 17 additional days in the hospital going through speech and occupational therapy.

Although AFE caused significant and lasting health complications that affected her memory, speech and motor skills, it hasn’t stopped Liana from keeping a positive attitude and a sense of humor. With great determination and many hours of rehab she’s been able to resume her passion to do the things she loves.

“I’ve physically made a full recovery, but am mentally dealing with the trauma.”

Liana has donated blood in the past and plans on being a regular blood donor.

——————————

To help build awareness for the importance of blood donation and AFE, their first-ever “friends of AFE blood drive” will be held February 18, 2022, for their families and friends.

Learn more about AFE on the Amniotic Fluid Embolism Foundation’s website and read Annie’s, Katie’s and Liana’s stories on their blog.


Story by Sue Thesenga and Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross. Photos courtesy Annie, Katie and Liana.

Living with sickle cell disease

Bathesheba Benson, a sickle cell warrior, keeps her eyes on the future

Bathesheba Benson knows hope and pain more than most. Known as Sheba, she’s among the estimated 100,000 people in the United States living with sickle cell disease.

Sickle cell disease turns soft and round red blood cells into hard and crescent-shaped cells that clump together, reducing blood flow.

Sheba’s first sickle cell crisis happened when at home in New Hope, Minnesota. She was just five years old and had a stroke. It was then that her family learned she had inherited the sickle cell trait from both of her parents.

“My parents kind of knew because I would swell up. They knew something was wrong, but they didn’t know I had sickle cell,” she says.

“I want to see the world. There’s so much to do. ” – Sheba Benson, a sickle cell warrior

Now thirty-seven years old, Sheba knows well the challenges facing ‘sickle cell warriors’ who shape their days, weeks, and years into a life that prevents pain and reduces crises to the best of their abilities.

Sometimes a crisis can’t be prevented. Certain factors, like extreme cold, elevate risks. Even something quite ordinary, such as five-minute walk to a nail salon, can ignite the spiral.

“Oh, my goodness, it’s so hard,” she says. “I have to plan life out ahead of time. I have to double think about my decisions that I take in life.”

One decision – staying in college to study childcare – came to halt when she was twenty-one years old. She suffered a second stroke. The event also triggered a bout of depression so she went with her mom to visit relatives in Ghana. 

“I feel healthier once I get blood in my system – I feel brighter, stronger and healthier – you can see it in my face – my sister says ‘you look better’.”

Sheba Benson – Sickle Cell Warrior

“I was depressed there, too, because I wasn’t doing anything and not going anywhere. So, I decided to come back to Minnesota,” she says.

A critical, lifesaving treatment through all of this is blood transfusion. Red cell transfusion increases oxygen in the blood, boosting her immune system and reducing a severe pain crisis, stroke or other life-threatening conditions. Sheba’s transfusions have been numerous throughout the years, including more intensive apheresis therapy.

“They always transfuse me when my hemoglobin is low. Sometimes they give me an apheresis transfusion when I’m very very sick. They place a tube in my neck or groin area, and then hook me up to a big machine where they exchange blood,” she explains.

The transfusion transforms her in moments.

“I feel a lot lot better, like instantly – I feel stronger instantly – I feel healthier once I get blood in my system – I feel brighter, stronger and more healthier – you can see it in my face – my sister says ‘you look better’.”

“I feel healthier once I get blood in my system.” – Sheba Benson receives blood transfusion when she has a sickle cell crisis.

Sickle cell warriors like Sheba rely on blood donors for this crisis mitigating and lifesaving therapy, which could be needed any day of the year. Finding a blood match beyond well-known blood types like A, B and O is essential.

The hardship of finding a match lessens with a more diverse blood supply. The most likely matches are with donors who are Black. And because blood compatibility decreases with each transfusion, ongoing diversity from new and regular Black donors makes the difference for Sheba and other sickle cell patients.

“My blood bags always have Red Cross on it,” she says. “Please donate because it really goes along way – it helps me, it helps other patients out there. If I could donate, I would donate. Please go out there and donate if you can.”

When feeling well, meaning her pain is okay, Sheba holds her gaze on happiness, especially being with her friends and family. Meeting new people brings her joy, too.

“I want to see the world. There’s so much to do. My dream for 2022 is to stay out of the hospital and travel more. The ocean is my peaceful place. I want to be on the beach somewhere!”

To learn more about sickle cell disease, click here. To find a donation appointment, click here.

Story by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross. Photos provided by Sheba Benson

Keeping her promise to save lives

Three months ago, Jenapher Blair made a promise to give blood. After being on the receiving end of blood donation following the birth of her child, Jenapher hoped to become a blood donor herself.

Feeling a little emotional and filled with anticipation, Jenapher and her husband Steve arrived for her appointment at an American Red Cross blood drive in Hutchinson, Minn. on Nov. 9. “I’m wondering where my blood will go and who it’s going to help – I’ll be watching my blood donor app to follow the journey of my donation,” said Jenapher.

First-time blood donor Jenapher Blair rolled up a sleeve at a Red Cross drive on Nov. 9, 2021.

In just a little over five minutes, Jenapher’s donation was finished and she proudly held her blood bag close to her heart. “Wow, I can’t believe how quick that was – it’s such a great feeling to know that I’m going to help make a difference for someone, just like the people who’s blood I received did for me and my family!”

Jenapher Blair holding baby Adalyn with her husband and children.

Everything was going well…until it wasn’t

Following the birth of baby Adalyn in July, Jenapher started to hemorrhage and was losing blood quickly. It was a matter of life and death. Doctors couldn’t control her bleeding and the nearest blood was 80 miles away. The hospital called the Red Cross and in-turn the Minnesota State Patrol was immediately contacted to help rush four units of type O-negative blood to the hospital.

The lifesaving blood was delivered in just 65 minutes. Doctors told Jenapher “we were on borrowed time while waiting for the blood to arrive” and that she would not have survived had the blood arrived even minutes later.

Grateful and giving back

Jenapher left the blood drive pumping her fist in the air with excitement and thanking everyone in the room for giving the gift of life.

“Paying it forward doesn’t stop here for me,” she said. “It’s more personal. I want to be an example for my kids. We want to do our part and spread the word about the need and help get the numbers up because I realize how important it is to have blood available – if I hadn’t received the blood I needed, things could be very different.”

An exuberant Jenapher Blair after donating blood for the first time.

Jenapher, Steve, and their kids are also gamers who are raising funds through Mission Red, the official gaming and streaming charity program of the Red Cross. Learn more here or join their fundraising campaign TheOasisFam.

“The more we can do to be advocates for the lifesaving mission of the Red Cross, the better!”

Story by Sue Thesenga, American Red Cross. To find a blood drive near you click here.

St. James showing thanks through blood donation

On Thanksgiving Day, people from St. James and surrounding areas will continue their annual tradition of showing thanks through blood donation. This blood drive, now in its 17th year, collects the most blood of any American Red Cross Thanksgiving Day community-sponsored drive in the U.S.

“It’s really amazing that our annual Thanksgiving Day blood drive is the largest in the country!”

Diane Dannen, St. James resident and long-time Red Cross blood program volunteer.
2020, Red Cross phlebotomists collected nearly 200 units of lifesaving blood at the annual St. James Thanksgiving Day Blood Drive. Photo credit: American Red Cross

The drive will take place on Thursday, Nov. 25, at the National Guard Armory, 521 Armstrong Blvd. N., from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. This year, more than 50 Red Cross staff and volunteers will be on hand to help run the drive. Donors of all blood types – especially type O – are urged to make an appointment to help overcome the current blood shortage.

“This blood drive comes at a critical time for the Red Cross,” says Leah Pockrandt, Executive Director for the American Red Cross serving Southwest Minnesota. “It’s essential to shore up the nation’s blood supply as we move into the holiday season, especially while we have an ongoing national blood shortage.”

Rolling up a sleeve on Thanksgiving morning has become a holiday tradition for many over the past 16 years – collecting nearly 3,200 blood donations that have helped ensure a stable blood supply over the holiday season. Keeping on with the tradition, all presenting blood donors will be thanked with an exclusive pair of Red Cross holiday socks and a pumpkin pie courtesy of SuperFair Foods, while supplies last.

“It’s really amazing that our annual Thanksgiving Day blood drive is the largest in the country!” says Diane Dannen, St. James resident and long-time Red Cross blood program volunteer. “We should be very proud that our community continues this tradition and gives back in such a meaningful way. I’m incredibly thankful for everyone who makes giving the gift of life a priority during the holiday season.”

“We are thankful for the giving spirit of the St. James community who have made this Thanksgiving Day blood drive successful year after year. Blood donation is essential to ensuring the health of our communities, and volunteer donors are the only source of blood for those in need,” adds Pockrandt.  

Not in the St. James area on Thanksgiving? Healthy individuals who are feeling well are urged to make an appointment to donate blood this holiday season. Find a convenient blood drive near you by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App or calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.  

Let’s Kick Cancer’s Butt

Blood donors can help ‘Barrett the Brave’ and other children with cancer

Barrett has needed multiple blood and platelet transfusions during cancer treatment.

“Today my baby’s health was improved because someone gave blood,” wrote Abby Gregory on June 4 in his CaringBridge journal when Barrett received his first transfusion. This was a couple months after she found “a lump the size of a grape” in her son Barrett’s cheek this spring.

The lump – in a muscle – is a rare and serious form of pediatric cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma. Barrett – not yet two years old when diagnosed – started several weeks later on a brutal treatment plan of chemotherapy, radiation, and possibly surgery, over a 12-to 14-month period.

“We’re fighting for his life, which is still hard for me to wrap my head around,” says Abby.

Part of this fight for a boy “who loves trucks, shovels and his mom and dad” has involved multiple, hours-long transfusions of red blood cells and platelets during a time of shortages across the country. Both are often critical for giving lifesaving strength and time to patients enduring aggressive treatments against cancer.

Barrett’s first transfusion was the day before his second birthday – when he was in the hospital with his platelets and red blood cell counts too low. “It was overall fairly simple but, for some reason felt extra scary to us. But I guess all of this is scary,” says Abby.

“Barrett the Brave”

In October, Barret completed 28 proton radiation treatments and during this time he’s needed more lifesaving transfusions. He’s a brave boy experiencing great physical suffering, but “he’s keeping us smiling even through the pain,” says Abby.

Abby holds Barrett during chemo.

Barrett will need more transfusions to keep his red blood cell count high enough for more chemotherapy treatments during the coming months.

Grateful for blood and platelet donors, Barrett’s mom encourages people to donate or host a blood drive. Witnessing her son’s bravery, Abby asks for others to donate blood or platelets to help “kick cancer’s butt.”

Visit redcrossblood.org to schedule your blood donation appointment.

Story by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross; Photos courtesy of Barrett’s family. Visit Barrett’s CaringBridge journal here. #BraveBarrett

Fall 2021 Sickle Cell Initiative Blood Drive

Our profound thanks to everyone who supported our Sickle Cell Initiative blood drive on September 25 at Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in North Minneapolis. We had a great turn out – collected 51 units! Many thanks to Sickle Cell Initiative local partners and sponsors, including HealthPartners, Sickle Cell Foundation of Minnesota, Black Nurses Rock Twin Cities Chapter, Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, Epsilon Rho Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and KMOJ. A diverse blood supply every day helps sickle cell patients in crisis. Learn more.

One of two Red Cross buses, including the regional fleet’s newest, supported the blood drive. In total, 55 people, including 17 new donors, presented to donate. 51 units were collected on the two buses.
Precious, a new Red Cross volunteer and a recent college graduate, checked in donors as they arrived throughout the day at Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in North Minneapolis.
Twin Cities Red Cross board chair, Dr. David Hamlar, helped plan the drive and donated blood. “There’s more work to do,” he says. We’re grateful for his ongoing support for this long-term initiative.
Epsilon Rho Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity helped organize the blood drive and encouraged people, especially first-time donors, to roll up a sleeve for sickle cell and other patients in need of blood transfusion.
Community partners like Rae (l) with the Sickle Cell Foundation of Minnesota and Beverly (r), a Red Cross volunteer who’s also with Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, are critical for blood drive success.

First-Time Blood Donor : “Each of us was going to save lives.”

“It was the thing to do!” 

“My parents donated and inspired me to give.” 

“To help fill a need!” 

“It was always on my ‘bucket list’ to make a donation.” 

The different responses given by American Red Cross blood donors show there’s no uniform reason that sparks their first donation. Personally, I had not found my reason until several weeks ago. Prior to that, the only time blood donations had been brought up in my life was by a friend who, despite nearly passing out at the mention of needles, would be back at a donation center every couple of months. I would always ask why she would put herself in that situation, and her answer would always be similar to that of other donors – she wanted to help. 

Only a couple of hours after scheduling my donation time, I was answering questions at the center and beginning the donation process. I spent the ten minutes it took to fill the bag by looking around the room. All of the Red Cross members working the drive as well as the donors were radiating positivity, despite the needles in their arms, and I found that I, too, could only think of the overwhelming good that everyone’s presence in the room was doing. No matter each person’s unique background or reason for being there, each of us was going to save lives.  

The couple hours that had passed from deciding to schedule my appointment to leaving the donation center had flown by, but had filled me with a new understanding of the simple answers people give when asked why they donated blood. There did not have to be one significantly motivating event that got the donors there. They had just wanted to help.  

“No matter each person’s unique background or reason for being there, each of us was going to save lives.”

If there could be one reason to broadly represent all of the donors who have shared why they donate, this would be it. I had always understood the basis of this when people said it, but the realization of what blood donations do for real people – not to mention the impact on the families and friends of the recipients – made the statement “wanting to help” much bigger.  

Due to the severe blood shortage, people all over the country have had to wait to receive blood transfusions or have not received them at all. Not receiving the proper blood transfusions takes away significant parts of people’s lives, but each donor’s decision to donate gives the opportunity to change that for at least one person. There’s no reason too small to motivate this. 

Story by Julia Clingen – American Red Cross Volunteer

Red Cross blood donors make meaningful moments possible

Donations needed to overcome national blood shortage and help prevent delays in crucial patient care

Brent and Shari Danzeisen

While it may be easy to lose sight of where your blood flows after you leave the donation center or a blood drive, others can clearly see the exact implications of blood donations.

Brent Danzeisen is a donor that feels these impacts within his family. Brent had donated blood in the past and began again when his wife, Shari, started receiving weekly blood transfusions due to cancer treatments. Brent may have felt as many other donors do – knowing that their blood helps someone, somewhere. Now, the final destination of a blood donation’s journey is very relevant to Brent and his family.

Shari usually receives two transfusions weekly of 1-2 units, but recently was only able to receive 1 unit due to the national severe blood shortage. “Better than nothing!” Brent says. While being able to receive 1 unit of blood is still valuable, it may not provide Shari with the same energy that 2 units would.

Brent credits Shari’s blood transfusions for making many meaningful moments possible. “With the transfusions she receives, she was able to attend the Confirmation of our daughter this spring and has been able to attend our two boys’ baseball games so far this summer.” The quick and easy experiences Brent has had donating blood have certainly provided other families with similar moments.

“I would like to say to anyone who is thinking about it, just do it!” urges Brent, and donating blood really is as simple as that. “Half hour every other month is not a huge time commitment to help save a life or to give someone the opportunity to see their kids’ ball game or other major life event.”

The possibilities of what blood donations do down the road may seem difficult to picture, but for families like Brent and Shari’s they are anything but that. Shari’s blood transfusions are given her more time with her family.

As Brent has put it, “Thank you to all the donors, for without you the Red Cross would have no blood to give [Shari]!”

Schedule your appointment today: redcrossblood.org

Story by Julia Clingen/American Red Cross

Stuart’s Back – Rolling Up a Sleeve to Help Patients in Need

Stuart Anderson at the Red Cross Blood Donation Center in Minneapolis, June 4, 2021.

“It’s time to donate blood again,” reads the message on his vintage Red Cross T-shirt, speaks to his moment: Stuart is back, helping others have time together in the midst of cancer treatment or other traumatic events that touch so many of us. He has time and good health so he wants to help anyway he can.

“It’s been a while,” says Stuart Anderson while starting his platelet donation at the Red Cross Blood Donation Center in Minneapolis. For years he donated, starting in 1984, but then time passed and he got busy, like most of us.

Then tragedy happened. Stuart’s son developed cancer, specifically a brain tumor in the midst of being fully alive and studying to be an oncologist. “We had a few years together after his diagnosis,” says Stuart. Donated platelets for cancer treatment helped give them time. “I talked to him every day.” His son died six years ago at 30 years old.

More motivation comes from his own need for blood after falling out of a tree when he was a child. His wife and daughter have received blood, too.

Red Cross phlebotomist Suriya and platelet donor Stuart, Minneapolis, June 4, 2021.

Just steps away from the Mississippi River, a team works inside the Red Cross donation center to help Stuart and other donors be comfortable during a process that can take, on average, around two hours. Blankets keep them warm and movies keep them entertained. Stuart is patient while a phlebotomist adjusts his donation lines.

This Navy veteran served years in active duty and in the reserves. While getting his platelet donation underway, he recalled turning to the Red Cross for emergency financial assistance when he was a young recruit and newly married. “We were living off base,” he says, “and got a loan, $250, to help us.”

“Great people at the Red Cross,” he says. “Thanks for all you do.” We’d like to say thank you to Stuart and to all who donate to help patients in need. His return is a great reminder for donors who’ve been away for a while to make time. It’s super easy to make an appointment via the Red Cross Blood Donor App, which also allows you to follow your donation journey.

Story and photos: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

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