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

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.

“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

You could be an MVP for people who need lifesaving blood, platelets or convalescent plasma

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!

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!

Leslie Johnson and her daughter Emily Johnson, Mankato, Minnesota.

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.

Make your blood, platelets or convalescent plasma donation today.

Healthy and able blood donors are called to keep blood on the shelves for patients in need

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!

7 Healthy Habits to Help Prevent Flu

Every year on average 8% of people in the U.S. get the flu – don’t let it be you!

  1. Get vaccinated. Everyone 6 months of age an older should get a flu vaccine every season, especially people at high risk.
  2. Avoid close contact. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. If you are sick, keep your distance from others.
  3. Stay home when you are sick. Stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick to prevent spreading your illness to others.
  4. Cover your mouth and nose. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing to prevent those around you from getting sick.
  5. Clean your hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  6. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.
  7. Practice other good health habits. Clean frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

BONUS! Flu vaccination does not prevent blood donation. Yeah!

Download our new Flu (Influenza) Checklist that’s available in eight languages. Stay informed about public health recommendations related to flu and other health threats by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For more information on disaster and emergency preparedness, visit redcross.org.

12 Reasons to Donate at 12 Hours of Giving Blood Drive

It nearly goes without saying that the reason to donate blood during the 12 Hours Giving Blood Drive on December 19 is that your donation could help save up to three lives this winter. But since this is the festive season, we’ve added some sparkles to our list of reasons for you to donate the gift of life at this holiday drive.

1. Free gift wrapping!  Bring gifts that still need to be wrapped and we’ll wrap them for you.

2. Hourly prize drawings!  Prizes include but are not limited to a television, gift cards, and small appliances.

3. Free food and refreshments!  Scrumptious food, cookies, and drinks will be provided.

4. Convenient location! Finish up last minute holiday shopping at the nearby the outlet mall.

5. Help save lives! Our goal is 500 units of blood for patients in need.  Each unit could save up to three lives.

6. Photo opportunities!  Festive photos with Santa or Buddy the Blood Drop. Post on social media with hashtag #MNRedCross.

7. Easy sign-up!  Book your appointment online at RedCrossBlood.org or on the Blood Donor App. Sponsor code: 12 Hours

8. Share Your Story Tree! Share a story about donating or receiving blood products to hang on our Giving Tree.

9. Live Music! Instrumental and vocal groups will perform throughout the day.

10. Family tradition!  Donors return to this annual event year after year with their families to help save lives together.

11. Face art! Get a festive-themed face painting (hours: 2 to 7 p.m.).

12. New Year’s resolution! Kick-off the New Year now by becoming a regular blood donor or a Red Cross volunteer supporting blood donation.

Join us in Oakdale on Dec. 19.  Schedule your appointment here.

Happy Holidays!

Help replenish the blood supply

American Red Cross staff member Deshayla Tran finishes collecting a whole blood donation from Terry Smith, who has been regularly donating blood for the last five to 10 years. Amanda Romney/American Red Cross

Donors of all blood types, especially type O, are needed to help replenish the blood supply as the Red Cross faces an emergency need right now. Blood from generous volunteer donors helps families like the Jolliffes.

In February 2018, Meghan Jolliffe suffered an amniotic fluid embolism. During childbirth her heart stopped beating for 14 minutes resulting in the need for an emergency cesarean section. Her organs began to shut down, and her blood would not clot.

Meghan received nearly 100 units of blood within a seven-hour period during her procedures. The doctors were able to stop the bleeding and stabilize Meghan’s condition. Over the next several days, Meghan underwent five surgeries, dialysis and more to repair the damage to her body.

Type O negative red blood cells are kept in a Red Cross storage refrigerator before being distributed to a hospital. Type O negative is the universal blood type and what emergency room personnel reach for when there is no time to determine the blood type of patients in the most serious situations. Amanda Romney/American Red Cross

After her son Sullivan was delivered, he went without oxygen for seven minutes. Doctors performed a process called therapeutic hypothermia, or whole-body cooling, to preserve his neuro function, and he also received several units of blood.

In all, Meghan and Sullivan received 109 units of blood.

Meghan and Sully

“My family and I are forever grateful for the generosity of Red Cross volunteer blood donors,” says Meghan. “Donating blood is so important. You or a loved one may never need these lifesaving products, but I can assure you that someone, somewhere will.”

Please don’t wait to donate.  You can make an appointment now to give blood or platelets by downloading our free Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Thank you!

LaDeodra Drummond donates blood. Jeanette Ortiz-Osorio/American Red Cross