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.
“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
Donations needed to overcome national blood shortage and help prevent delays in crucial patient care
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]!”
Story by Julia Clingen/American Red Cross
“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.
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
Supporting cancer patients through blood donation
Sunday, June 6, is National Cancer Survivors Day, and we’re celebrating Myel. In August 2016, Myel received an unexpected and life-changing medical diagnosis. What she thought was an infection from a mosquito bite was actually stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer.
Myel’s treatment included chemo. She needed the support of platelet & plasma transfusions during her treatment. The need for blood products in cancer care is important & often untold. Patients may need blood products regularly due to chemo side effects or surgery complications.
After months of treatment, Myel was told her cancer was in remission in February 2017. “I was more than excited because I survived. I won, and it was time to get my life back! This couldn’t defeat me,” she says.
Myel knows the important role blood products had in helping her get through treatment & encourages others to give. “Everyone needs someone, and this is your time to help someone who needs your blood or platelets. Be a blessing. A pint of blood can help save lives.”
You might not be able to change a cancer diagnosis or treatment, but you can help those going through it by donating blood or platelets. Join the Red Cross and American Cancer Society and make your appointment to #GiveBloodToGiveTime at rcblood.org/3bYtlqn.
According to the American Cancer Society, many patient visits and procedures were forced to delay or cancel early in the pandemic to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19. With procedures resuming, blood donations are critical for cancer treatments. Unfortunately, the Red Cross is seeing fewer blood and platelet donors give as the nation begins to climb out of this pandemic. This downturn comes at a time when the Red Cross continues to see strong demand for blood products − including platelets − by hospitals, causing concern for the sufficiency of the blood supply this month and throughout the summer.
We currently have an emergency need for eligible donors to make an appointment now to give platelets to ensure critical patient needs are met. Platelets, the clotting portion of blood primarily given to cancer patients during treatment, must be transfused within five days of donation and, therefore, are always in great demand.
“Many cancer patients, especially those going through chemotherapy, will have a need for blood products during treatment,” says Dr. Baia Lasky, medical director for the Red Cross. “When someone donates blood or platelets, they may not only help prevent life-threatening bleeding that can cause stroke or relieve some symptoms, like shortness of breath and headaches, but also give patients and their families the time and hope they need to fight back.”
Some types of chemotherapy can damage bone marrow, reducing red blood cell and platelet production. Other times, the cancer itself or surgical procedures cause the need for blood products. About six blood products are needed every minute to help someone going through cancer treatment. Yet only 3% of people in the U.S. give blood. It is vital that more people donate blood and platelets regularly to meet that need.
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.
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!
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.
We want to let you know that the American Red Cross has a critical need for African American blood donors to help patients, especially those battling sickle cell disease, following a significant decrease in diverse donors in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic environment.
Across the nation since mid-March, the number of African Americans donating blood with the Red Cross has dropped by more than half. This low donor turnout is largely due to blood drive cancellations at businesses, churches and schools and the disproportionate COVID-19 infection rates for African Americans compared to other ethnicities.
Despite the steep decline in blood donations, the need for blood products for patients with sickle cell disease has remained relatively steady.
So, we’re reaching out to partners, community influencers, organizations, and YOU! for support that could help raise awareness about the need for diverse blood donors, especially African American blood donors during this COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, we’re encouraging eligible donors from communities of color to keep their scheduled donation appointments and to look for open appointments at redcrossblood.org, especially in the weeks ahead as blood drives are added.
Thank you! 😘
Thousands of blood drives canceled, resulting in tens of thousands of uncollected blood donations during Coronavirus Pandemic
The American Red Cross is working to continue delivering our mission, including the collection of lifesaving blood, but we have had a staggering number of scheduled Red Cross blood drives canceled as more workplaces, college campuses and other venues send people home and encourage social distancing. Disruptions to blood donations can lead to shortages and cause delays in essential medical care.
As of March 26, about 9,000 blood drives, representing more than 300,000 fewer blood donations, have been canceled in the U.S. due to COVID-19 concerns. In our Minnesota and Dakotas blood services region, cancellations include 311 blood drives, resulting in more than 10,360 uncollected donations. As the number of COVID-19 cases grow in our region, we expect that number to increase unfortunately.
Those who are healthy, feeling well and eligible to give blood or platelets, are urged to make an appointment to donate as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App,
As concerns about the coronavirus pandemic rise, please know:
• Donating blood is a safe process and people should not be concerned about giving or receiving blood during this challenging time.
• More healthy donors are needed to give now to prevent a blood shortage.
• Keep scheduled blood drives, which will allow donors the opportunity to give blood.
As an emergency preparedness organization, the Red Cross has also taken additional steps to ensure the safety of staff and donors at each Red Cross blood drive.
• The Red Cross only collects blood from individuals who are healthy and feeling well at the time of donation – and who meet other eligibility requirements, available at RedCrossBlood.org.
• We are now pre-screening all individuals by checking their temperature before they enter any Red Cross blood drive or donation center, including our own staff and volunteers.
• At each blood drive and donation center, Red Cross employees follow thorough safety protocols including wearing gloves, routinely wiping down donor-touched areas, using sterile collection sets for every donation, and preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub.
• Additional spacing has been implemented within each blood drive set up to incorporate social distancing measures between donation beds and stations within the blood drive.
• The average blood drives are only 20-30 people and are not large gatherings.
These mitigation measures will help to keep blood recipients, staff and donors safe.
Thank you for being lifesavers for patients in need in Minnesota and across the country!