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

Give Blood to Give Time

Supporting cancer patients through blood donation

In August 2016, Myel Bowers-Smith received an unexpected and life-changing medical diagnosis

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.

The American Red Cross and the American Cancer Society have teamed up this June to encourage people across the country to Give Blood to Give Time and help ensure loved ones have the strength and support they need as they undergo cancer treatment.

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.

Source: American Cancer Society

“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.

4 Steps To Prepare Now for Wildfire Threats

After back-to-back years of record-breaking wildfires, this year it’s more critical than ever to get ready now. Like the home and apartment fires we respond to every day, wildfires are dangerous and can spread quickly, giving you only minutes to evacuate.

Getting ready is easy with four steps.

Create an evacuation plan. Include in your plan what to do in case you’re separated from your family during an emergency and for evacuation. Coordinate your plan with your child’s school, your work and your community’s emergency plans. Plan multiple routes to local shelters, register family members with special medical needs as required and make plans for pets. If you already have an emergency plan, talk about it again with family members so everyone knows what to do when an emergency occurs.

Build an emergency kit. Include a gallon of water per person, per day, non-perishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, medications, supplies for an infant if applicable, a multi-purpose tool, personal hygiene items, copies of important papers, cell phone chargers, extra cash, blankets, maps of the area and emergency contact information. Because of the pandemic, include a mask for everyone in your household. If you already have a disaster kit, now is the time make sure the food and water is still okay to consume and that copies of important documents are up to date.

Be informed. Find out how local officials will contact you during a wildfire emergency and how you will get important information, such as evacuation orders.

Download the Red Cross Emergency App. Our free emergency app will help keep you and your loved ones safe with real-time alerts, open Red Cross shelter locations and safety advice on wildfires and other emergencies. To download the app, search for ‘American Red Cross’ in your app store or text “GETEMERGENCY” to 90999.

In addition to preparedness, take steps to prevent wildfires.

  • Don’t drive your vehicle onto dry grass or brush. Hot components under your vehicle can spark fires.
  • Use equipment responsibly. Lawn mowers, chain saws, tractors and trimmers can all spark a wildfire.
  • Use caution any time you use fire. Dispose of charcoal briquettes and fireplace ashes properly, never leave any outdoor fire unattended, and make sure that outdoor fires are fully extinguished before leaving the area.
  • If residential debris burning is allowed — use caution. After obtaining any necessary permits, ensure that burning is not currently restricted in your area.
  • Store combustible or flammable materials in approved safety containers away from the house.
  • Find an outdoor water source, such as a pond, well, even a swimming pool, and have a hose that can reach any area of your property.
  • Create a fire-resistant zone free of leaves, debris or flammable materials for at least 30 feet out from your home.
  • Regularly clean roofs and gutters.
  • Make sure driveway entrances and your house number are clearly marked so fire vehicles can get to your home.

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