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.

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.

You could be a cancer kicker

Emery has needed both blood and platelets during cancer treatments.

You may be surprised to learn that you can play a direct role in helping patients kick cancer simply by donating platelets through the Red Cross.

Take someone like 5-year-old Emery, who was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia last spring. During her intense cancer treatments, Emery has needed both blood and platelets.

“Emery would not be able to recover from chemotherapy without lifesaving transfusions,” says her mom, Morgan. “Every time they hang a bag of platelets or blood up on her IV pole, I wish whoever donated that could see who it’s going to. There would be no chance for her to live, taking that chemotherapy, if it weren’t for the blood products.”

Cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma, and certain types of chemotherapy drugs and radiation, can damage the bone marrow where red blood cells and platelets are produced. Platelet transfusions may be needed to prevent life-threatening bleeding and help cancer patients continue receiving lifesaving treatments. More than half of all platelet donations are given to cancer patients.

Platelets are tiny cells that form clots and stop bleeding. About 2 million units of platelets are transfused each year in the U.S., and more than half of all donated platelets go to cancer patients. While cancer patients undergo treatment, a major side effect is low platelet counts. Without a platelet transfusion, cancer patients face life-threatening bleeding since platelets help blood to clot.

The Red Cross needs your help to keep up with hospital demand for platelets. Because platelets must be transfused within five days of the time they are donated, there is a constant, often critical need for new and current donors to give.

This is where you come in.  You can help the fight against cancer in the following ways:

  • Please give platelets or blood. Appointments can be made using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, online at RedCrossBlood.org/Cancer or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
  • Invite family and friends to donate platelets or blood too. All blood types, except types O negative and B negative, are encouraged to give platelet donation a try. Type O negative and B negative donors are encouraged to give whole blood or a Power Red donation, where available.
  • Did you or a family member receive platelets or blood? Let us know. Please contact Sue Thesenga at sue.thesenga@redcross.org or 651-895-7542 so we can consider sharing it for  inspiring others to donate.

Learn more and sign up to be a #CancerKicker at RedCrossBlood.org/Cancer.

Hey, Red Cross bloodmobile, you’ve come a long way baby!

Story by Sue Thesenga of North Central Blood Services and
Abby Arthaud 
of Southwest Blood Services Region 

Red Cross blood truck, ca. 1940s. Image: University of Minnesota

You’ve probably seen one rolling down the road or through your town on its way to a blood drive — an American Red Cross bloodmobile. They allow blood drive organizers to host drives anywhere, making it more convenient for donors to give near home, work or school.

A self-contained bloodmobile from 1957. Among the first in the nation, it was paid for by the St. Paul Masonic Women.

Throughout the years, Red Cross bloodmobiles have changed, but their mission has stayed the same—to help fulfill the need for blood donations.

As far back as WWII and the Korean War, requests for blood for the armed forces reached St. Paul and donated blood was included in air shipments overseas. The successful efforts of collection centers throughout the war spurred calls from the nation’s hospitals and other medical facilities for an ongoing civilian blood program.

Train bloodmobile

In January 1949, the first mobile operation from the St. Paul Blood Center was deployed to North Branch, Minnesota. This was one of the first self-contained, traveling blood donation centers and transformed blood collection. Another bloodmobile was put into operation in the St. Paul region in 1950 to help serve 32 additional counties. Since then, self-contained bloodmobiles have been adopted across the nation and world.

American Red Cross bloodmobile of today

Today’s bloodmobiles are fully equipped for blood collection and short-term blood storage, featuring open floor plans, climate control, advanced technology and spacious interiors. They are designed to be more comfortable and enhance the donor experience. The newest bloodmobiles include special features for donors, such as iPads on each donor bed with all of the Red Cross apps and an LCD billboard on the exterior that tells passersby which blood types are currently most needed.

Today’s bloodmobile interior

Bloodmobiles travel all over the state every day to fulfill the constant need for blood. From planes, trains and bloodmobiles, the mission of the Red Cross is to ensure patients get the blood products they need wherever they need them, whenever they need them. Some things never change!

Help us celebrate 100 years of Red Cross service in Minnesota. Click here to find a blood drive near you. Click here to share your Red Cross story. 

Red Cross blood donor ambassador makes pay back a great act of service

BloodDonorAmbassador_PhotoSteveSanfordDuring the Vietnam War, Steve Sanford was seriously injured. The Red Cross helped him communicate what was happening to his family back home. He later was decorated with the Purple Heart for being wounded during military service.

This early connection with the Red Cross, and its work supporting American soldiers, helped Steve decide that he wanted to pay back a decades-old good deed. So after he retired from a career in food and mail services, Steve became a Red Cross volunteer.

“I’ve gotten to know the donors and staff very well, and it’s my honor to ensure donors have the best experience possible when they come to give,” says Steve. “I love meeting new people, and I’ve made a lot of great friendships by volunteering with the Red Cross!”

Since 2011, Steve has served as a blood donor ambassador at blood drives in the Minneapolis and St. Paul metro area. Blood donor ambassadors have an important role welcoming and guiding blood donors during drives, ensuring donor wellness after blood donation, and providing friendly, courteous and knowledgeable assistance to blood donors, staff, community partners and visitors.

Sanford has served as a donor ambassador at numerous blood donation centers and area blood drives including the Minnesota State Fair, 12 Hours of Giving, KARE 11 and many others. He has logged nearly 3,000 volunteer hours to date! Currently, he greets and assists donors at the North Suburban Blood Donation Center in Arden Hills twice a week, and always with a big, cheery smile on his face.

“We’re incredibly fortunate to have dedicated volunteers like Steve who are so generous with their time,” says Arika Quick, manager of volunteer resources for Red Cross blood services in Minnesota. “Steve is a role model for new volunteers and has been instrumental in helping train and mentor new volunteers. He’s a great example of someone who truly wants to make a difference by supporting the lifesaving mission of the Red Cross.”

133903-March-is-Red-Cross-Month-Facebook-FINAL3Sanford is also a dedicated blood donor, having reached 22 gallons. His first blood donation was May 6, 1966, at St. Paul College. Since that time he has donated whole blood, double red cells, platelets and white cells as often as possible. Health issues have prevented him from donating since last summer, but he hopes that in the near future he’ll donate again.

“When you volunteer with the Red Cross you become part of a group of people who truly make a difference in the lives of people in serious medical need,” Steve says. “You just don’t know when you or a loved one will be the one in need.”

Everyday the Red Cross relies on the dedicated efforts of volunteers like Steve to collect the blood products needed to treat patients across the country. You, too, can help others in a way that makes a real difference in people’s lives. Become a Red Cross blood donor ambassador and #BeAHero during Red Cross Month and for months to come. For more information, contact (651) 291-3360 or ncvolunteerresouces@redcross.org.

Story by Sue Thesenga, Communications Manager for American Red Cross North Central Blood Services

Help prevent a blood donation shortage

January 2016 Urgent Need_Stamp GraphicUpdate: On January 25 the American Red Cross issued an emergency appeal for blood and platelet donations following recent severe weather that has forced the cancellation of more than 300 blood drives across 20 states. The result is more than 9,500 donations uncollected, further depleting an already low winter supply. Blood donation appointments can be quickly and easily scheduled by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

12 January 2016 — Every day in January hundreds of additional donations of blood and platelets are urgently needed for patients across the United States.

Severe winter weather in some areas of the country has already forced the cancellation of approximately 30 blood drives this month, resulting in over 1,100 uncollected donations. More cancellations are likely.

Hectic holiday schedules in November and December contributed to about 1,700 fewer blood drives held, and 50,000 less donations collected, than the two previous months.

Charilie_BloodMeanwhile, blood products are being distributed to hospitals as quickly as they are coming in for patients like 2-year-old Charlie who has leukemia. Click here to meet Charlie and her mom.

Blood and platelet donors of all types are needed to reverse the declining supply and help ensure blood products continue to be available. A shortage can be avoided if at least two more donors – above what’s currently expected – come to donate at every Red Cross blood drive in January.

January 2016 Urgent Need_InfographicOn average, the Red Cross must collect 14,000 blood and platelet donations every day for patients at about 2,600 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country. Blood and platelets are often needed to respond to emergencies large and small, including the personal ones that occur in communities across the country every day involving accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease.

January 2016 Urgent Need_Empty bedEligible blood donors with types O, B negative and A negative blood are encouraged to donate double red cells where available. During a double red cell donation, two units of red blood cells are collected while most of the plasma and platelets are returned to the donor.

Make an appointment now to help replenish the blood supply by downloading the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).