Volunteer spotlight: Blood Donor Ambassador Flora Holmberg

From serving meals to disaster victims to briefing soldiers before deployments, Red Cross volunteers contribute throughout our communities in many ways. Flora Holmberg serves in another important role: Blood Donor Ambassador at blood drives and fixed donation centers.

Flora Holmberg

What do you do as a Red Cross volunteer?
I work as a Donor Ambassador in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Stillwater areas. I greet people who are coming to donate, thank them for coming in, and register them for their donation appointment.

What’s your favorite part or memory of volunteering?
I enjoy meeting and visiting with all the great people who come in to donate.

Would you recommend volunteering with the Red Cross to others?
Yes!  Very much so!! It’s a great organization to volunteer for – it gives you such a great feeling to know that you are a part of something that helps so many people.

How does it feel to help save a life? Watch this video:

We’re always looking for volunteers to help their neighbors in need after disasters like home fires. To volunteer or for more information, click here. Or join us during upcoming 30-minute “Call to Serve” conferences calls:

  • Tuesday, April 23, 12-12:30 pm
  • Thursday, April 25, 4-4:30 pm
  • Wednesday, May 1, 12-12:30 pm
  • Sunday, May 5, 2-2:30 pm

RSVP to MNRecruit@redcross.org.

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.

The more things change …

…. the more they stay the same.

That’s a spot-on adage when we consider fulfilling our Red Cross mission to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.

For example, one hundred years ago Junior Red Cross volunteers in Duluth made care packages for World War I veterans overseas.

This year our Service to the Armed Forces volunteers will distribute donated socks to veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Donated socks ready for distribution to military veterans in nursing homes. Photo by Jennifer Landeros

There are more examples and yet, whatever the year of the new year, the basics of life remain the same.

People need shelter, food and clothing. People need blood and blood products. People need to reach loved ones during emergencies.

The Red Cross helps meet these and other basic needs within the context of being impartial and neutral, of empowering volunteer service, and keeping an eye on preserving and promoting human dignity in all of our work.

With those thoughts in mind, this year we encourage you to look to the stars while keeping your feet on the ground. Make a regular commitment to:

  • supporting people affected by disasters
  • providing safe lifesaving blood and blood products
  • helping military members of our armed forces and their families
  • being trained in life-saving skills for emergency response
  • giving resources that help neighbors around the world

This quiz will help you choose which action is best for you.

Story by Lynette Nyman — pictured above last year with women living in Bangladesh in camps for people who have fled violence in Myanmar.  

Be a holiday hero at the 6th annual 12 Hours of Giving Blood Drive on Dec. 20

The arrival of the holiday season often means spending time and exchanging gifts with family and friends. But what if the gift you needed couldn’t be bought? For patients like Mike McMahon, the generosity of blood donations was the perfect gift and didn’t cost anything other than a bit of someone’s time.

Following a tragic tree felling accident on Nov. 10, 2016, McMahon, a Stillwater, Minnesota resident, suffered life-threatening injuries. He needed 11 units of blood during emergency surgery to keep him alive.

He spent the next six weeks in the intensive care unit and inpatient rehab, including three weeks during which he had to be intubated as he was unable to breathe on his own.

During his hospital stay, he also experienced an ulcer on a major artery in his intestines. The ulcer was so severe that he needed an additional seven units of blood and the artery was coiled to stop the hemorrhaging.

Mike McMahon

“I remember clearly as my nurse hooked me up to the first bag of blood,” said McMahon. “The thought of blood passing through another person’s heart and now into me, to keep me alive, was very emotional. From the first pint to the last, each one was equally moving.”

McMahon was told that he might not be able to do a lot of things ever again – his future was uncertain. However, just a few days before Christmas he was released from the hospital.

McMahon is thankful for blood donors and credits blood donation with helping save his life. “I’m grateful for the donors who gave me such an amazing gift – to spend Christmas and more holidays with my family. I was an occasional blood donor before the accident – today I donate as often as I can to help ensure others receive the same gift of life.”

You can give patients like McMahon more time and memories this holiday season by donating blood at the American Red Cross 6th annual 12 Hours of Giving Blood Drive at Inwood Oaks in Oakdale, Minnesota. As a special thanks, all who come to give will be treated to free parking, complimentary gift wrapping, a special gift bag, a long-sleeved Red Cross T-shirt, and holiday food and entertainment and will be automatically entered into hourly prize drawings including grand prizes – a large flat panel TV and a HP laptop computer.

To make an appointment to give blood at the 12 Hours of Giving Blood Drive, donors can click here or use sponsor code 12 hours on the Red Cross Blood Donor App, online at redcrossblood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

We hope to see you at the 12 Hours of Giving Blood Drive. Happy holidays from your friends at the Red Cross!

Story and photo by Sue Thesenga/American Red Cross

Red Cross blood drives every day at State Fair

Come late Summer, all roads for Minnesotans lead to the State Fair.

Red Cross is continuing its decade-long blood drive tradition at the Minnesota State Fair. The goal is to collect 100 units of blood every day of the 12-day event. One unit of blood can potentially save three people’s lives.

Why the State Fair?

Many fair-goers now notice for the stand-out bloodmobile for what has now become for some an “annual State Fair family blood donation tradition,” says Sue Thesenga, Communications Manager for the American Red Cross North Central Blood Services, covering a region with all of Minnesota and parts of Iowa, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Each such blood donation is coupled with a beautiful backstory says Sue, who recounts one such story of two friends who had never donated before decided to give together when they saw the Red Cross bloodmobile outside the Agriculture and Horticulture Building. Last year they were back to have their engagement photo taken next to the bloodmobile. Turns out, he was just her type!

The couple has given blood together twice since that first State Fair date, including a donation the day after they were engaged. They say it’s a fun way to celebrate, says Sue.

There are many similar stories of like one of a mother and daughter who have made it their annual fun activity together.  There are some who have had perfect attendance, having not missed a single State Fair blood drive.

It seems donating blood at the State Fair goes hand-in-hand with cookies, cheese-curds and corn-dogs.

Story by Sohini Sarkar, American Red Cross

Centennial blood drive honors those who serve

On June 26, 2017, American Red Cross Minnesota Region board members sponsored a blood drive celebrating a century of service in Minnesota. The drive honored men and women in uniform who serve our communities. It came at a critical time: during the summer months when blood donations decline. 87 pints of blood were collected at this drive, helping the Red Cross continue supplying hospitals with blood so patients can receive treatment they need. Below, we share stories about some who helped make this lifesaving blood drive a success.

Laura Antelman is an assistant at a rehab facility. She’s pictured here with Coco, who’s being trained as a service dog at PawPADs (Pawsitive Perspectives Assistance Dogs). While service dogs aren’t therapy dogs, they have the same gentle demeanor and help calm people who are afraid of giving blood. Coco did a wonderful job helping people relax, and she got along very well with Laura.

 

Gene Olesen (pictured left) has donated more than 20 gallons of blood over the past 50 years. He’s been married to Nancy (also pictured), of 48 years. Nancy came with Gene to the drive to donate and to have a lunch date! Less than 7% of the world’s population has Type A negative blood, and Gene is one of them. He says his main reason for donating is to help cancer patients. And despite moving across the country he has continued to donate – from St. Paul to California, and from California to Wisconsin.

Sophia Sexton (far left in photo with friends) is the daughter of Red Cross board member Amy Rolando. It was Sophia’s first blood donation, and she brought 16 of her friends with her. Thank you to Sophia for all the lives she helped save.

 

Lisa Bardon, the regional accounts manager for the North Central Blood Services Region, shares a caring moment with her husband, Al Wivell (pictured left with Lisa). They both donated blood.

 

Several donors came in uniform to roll up a sleeve, including Officer Mike Harcey from the St. Louis Park Police Department (pictured left), a first-time donor. He said, “I’ve always wanted to give blood and never made the time. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to do it.”

A special thanks goes out to all board members who helped recruit blood donors or helped with the centennial drive. These board members truly demonstrated the Red Cross mission with their hard work. Pictured below, left to right: Amy Rolando, Phil Hansen, Minde Frederick, Jan Hallstrom, Lani Jordan, Joan Purrington, incoming board member Ole Hovde, and Dave Adriansen.

You can help, too
The Red Cross is facing a critical blood shortage this summer and has issued an emergency call for eligible blood and platelet donors of all blood types to roll up a sleeve now to help save lives. Blood donations are being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in, and more donations are needed now to replenish the supply.

  • Click here to find a blood drive near you
  • Use the Blood Donor App, visit redcross.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to schedule your blood or platelet donation appointment
  • Encourage friends, family members and your social networks to make an appointment to donate blood or platelets this summer

Story and photos by Meha Jain, Communications & International Services Intern for the American Red Cross Minnesota Region

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.