#JoasStrong blood drive raises awareness for need

On March 8, MHC Software in Burnsville, Minn., hosted the #JoasStrong blood drive, collecting 41 pints of blood in honor of employee Bryan Joas. While riding a bicycle home from work on March 8, 2016, Bryan was hit by a car that fled the scene of the accident. The accident left him with life-threatening injuries that required 12 surgeries during his 88-day hospital stay. During this time, he received at least 35 units of blood and 11 units of platelets to help save his life. Now, Bryan and his wife Shauna are dedicated to raising awareness about the need for blood donation. You never know when you or someone you love will need blood, says Bryan. “Without lifesaving blood, my condition might be very different. I’m living proof that blood helps save lives.”

Bryan and wife Shauna were blood donors before the accident. And once they even went on a blood donation date! Although Bryan has some ongoing medical issues, he’s working full-time and looking forward to riding his bicycle again this spring and summer. Although unable to donate blood right now, hopes that he will be able to in the future. “I’m just a cheerleader right now, but I hope to be able to donate in the future,” he says. Bryan’s story is a testimony that blood on the shelves help save lives. Thanks to all people working to ensure that the Red Cross is able to support a stable blood supply for hospitals and patients we serve.

To help ensure a sufficient supply for patients, make an appointment to give now at rcblood.org/2nqkmU8. Click here to learn about hosting an American Red Cross blood drive; or contact Mary Pucel, Donor Recruitment Director, at mary.pucel@redcross.org or 651-291-3366.

Story and photo by Sue Thesenga, 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).

If I can give blood, so can you.

Story by Vivi Engen, American Red Cross Intern, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Spoiler: I survive the blood donation. This is a picture of me and my Red Cross bandage after I finished giving blood.
Spoiler alert: I survive the blood donation. This is a picture of me and my Red Cross bandage after I finished giving blood.

This is the story about my first time giving blood. I will not spare you the bloody details, because if I did, I would have nothing to write about.

Remember that five-year-old who went in to get her flu shot and needed five nurses (all wearing ear plugs to mute the screaming) to hold her down? Well, that was me. Over time, I have learned to brave getting shots but never fully outgrew the anxiety that comes at the sight of blood and needles. I studiously avoided offering my arm for 20 years, even though I’ve witnessed firsthand how important donating blood can be. I had to swallow hard to overcome that fear, and the good news is, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

Monday, July 13, 2:15 p.m. rolled around much too quickly. A week after I had booked my appointment through the Blood Donor App, I found myself in the Red Cross blood donation center on the third floor at 1201 West River Parkway in Minneapolis. It was the ideal day to give blood. Outside was a blazing 89-degrees topped by an 83% humidity index, so even without giving blood, I felt sweaty and faint just from walking outside.

As I sat in the waiting room (which was comfortably air-conditioned), I sipped on my fifth Nalgene of the day. I realized that I had to use the restroom, again, and decided that I might have taken the recommendation to show up hydrated a little too seriously. My mom, who had agreed to give blood with me, was uncharacteristically late. (She later claimed that she took a wrong turn, but I know that she delayed her arrival because she was just as nervous as I was.)

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The poster that trumped my fear of needles.

With time to spare, I scanned the waiting room until my eye caught a poster that asked, “Why do you give?” My mind initially jumped to ‘because my boss suggested it would be a good idea’, but then I realized I had many reasons to give blood—reasons that trumped my fear of needles.

Blood donations help millions of patients in need. In fact, in the past few years, blood donations have helped some of the most important people in my life. My dad, handy man that he is, cut his foot open with a chainsaw a few years ago and he needed blood. This past ski season one of my best friends crashed into a tree and she needed blood. Even more recently, my grandfather died of leukemia. And while he was alive, he received blood transfusions that made him feel much better.

Finally, my mom arrived and both of us were invited back. After a short health history exam and another trip to the bathroom, the nurses began prepping me. But one thing was missing, my partner in crime (a.k.a. mom). A few minutes later, she came in to deliver some tragic news. She would not be able to donate blood today because she had traveled to the Dominican Republic earlier this spring. (The Red Cross has a list of eligibility requirements that blood donors must clear before they can donate, one of those criteria include not having traveled to the Dominican Republic in the past year. For a list of the Red Cross blood donation eligibility criteria click here.)

The room where patients are sit to complete their donation at the Minneapolis Blood Donation Center.
The room where patients sit to complete their donation at the Red Cross blood donation center in Minneapolis.

So I embarked on my blood donation solo. The nurse laid me down on my back in the middle of an open room that offered a great view of downtown Minneapolis. She explained that first-time donors must lie down as a safety precaution. I glanced around the room and noticed that everyone else was sitting up. Perfect, I was instantly labeled as the newbie.

I get chatty when I’m nervous, and the nurse happily obliged, making small talk while she prepared my arm. At one point I asked how many donors they usually receive at this location. She guessed that an average of 15 people a day show up. There were at least 15, if not more, donors in the room at this moment. Word must have spread that I made an appointment and people came to witness the tears and screaming.

Me in the midst of my donation! All smiles, no pain.
Me in the midst of my donation! All smiles, no pain.

Then came the moment I’d been dreading. The nurse told me not to look and slid the needle into my inner-left-elbow-crevasse (I don’t know how else to explain that spot on my arm). She did not stab or jab or pinch, she slid it into my arm. The needle entering was effortless, like it was meant to be there. OK that was an exaggeration, but it was manageable.

12 minutes and 43 seconds later I was done, and to my surprise feeling good! I looked at the pint of blood that had just come out of my body. The nurse saw me eyeing the bag and told me that my donation could help save up to three lives. Three lives? I asked if I had heard her correctly. She nodded and I sat, recovering from what probably counts as the most heroic, if somewhat anti-climactic, 15 minutes of my life.

The snack table was not this full after I donated.
The snack bowl was wayyyyyyy less full after I left the blood donation center.

After the nurses were convinced that I still knew my name and could stand on my own, they told me to slowly make my way to the snack table. I had been obedient for the last hour, but I admit, this time I broke the rules and hurried over to the food. First I enjoyed an M&M cookie, then I grabbed granola bar. Resisting a third snack might have been the most painful thing I did all day.

As I sat indulging myself, I scanned the donation room. There were business people on their way home from work, seniors reading newspapers, even a few students like me. Everyone was sitting up, which meant that they were all experienced donors coming back to save more lives. I knew that I too would be back, next time sitting up like the veterans surrounding me, to participate in one small deed that can make a world of difference.

So trust me: If I can give blood, so can you. And you’ll get a cookie.

Help prevent a seasonal blood supply shortage: A seasonal blood donation decline is common during the summer. Currently, the Red Cross has an urgent need for type AB blood to help replenish the plasma supply. Blood donors with types O negative, B negative and A negative and platelet donors are also especially needed to maintain sufficient supplies. For information about blood donation, or to schedule an appointment, download the Blood Donor App, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Kate is training for the Run for Blood. Are you?

On July 25, the American Red Cross Minnesota Region will host the 2015 Run for Blood. This family-friendly walk and run event celebrates the people who give lifesaving blood and supports Red Cross blood services. This inspiring story helps tell why we’re doing this event and why you should participate, too. Go Kate Go!

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Kate Ross became a donor advocate following a life changing accident that required multiple surgeries and blood donations to save her life. Photo credit: Andy King

When you first meet Kate Ross you are instantly moved by her infectious smile and constant laughter. Her friends describe her as fun, inspiring, outgoing, incredible, full of energy, strong and a positive presence. She describes herself on her blog biography as a “student, animal lover, daughter and sister, spiritual, music-obsessed fitness enthusiast, artistic, friendly, optimistic and a volunteer.”

You would never sense from her upbeat demeanor or the words used to describe her that nearly five years ago her life changed in an instant, and she now proudly wears a fashionable crystal-studded, paisley prosthetic leg. Nowhere in the description of Kate could you tell that she was faced with a tragedy that could have easily left her feeling sorry for herself.

In fact, her story is quite the opposite.

“In December 2009, I was weary from the exhaustion of being a full-time student and working full time. I took my finals at school and on my way home that evening I fell asleep while driving,” said Ross. When she dozed off, she was traveling 60 mph and hit a guardrail, which penetrated her car and went through her right calf and thigh.

“I knew that something was drastically wrong with my leg, although I’m lucky that I didn’t realize there was a guardrail basically through my entire body at that point.”

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Red Cross advocate Kate Ross participated in the 2014 Run for Blood in Minneapolis. She’s training for the 2015 event and is planning to use a new prosthetic leg made especially for running. Photo credit: Andy King

Ross was taken by ambulance to the hospital, and after several surgeries, doctors put her in a medically induced coma. Seven days later, on Christmas Day, doctors made the grave decision to amputate her leg above the knee.

Ross underwent more nearly two years of occupational and physical therapy before her life returned to a “new normal.” Through 19 surgeries, she needed more than 25 pints of lifesaving blood products.

“I was very thankful for the blood being available when I needed it, but I never thought about being a blood donor myself because I’m terrified of needles.” But when her best friend and co-worker asked her to participate in a blood drive, she realized that, despite her fear, she should give blood, too.

“She reminded me it was donated blood that helped save my life after my accident. It was like a big, needed slap in the face that reminded me that I wouldn’t be here to tell my story if it hadn’t been for the generosity of blood donors.”

With a new found gratitude and outlook on life, Ross became a blood donor last year and strives to “be the good you wish to see in the world.” Once a blood recipient, now she is paying it forward.

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Kate Ross (l), a Red Cross Hero, is shown here with American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern during the 2014 Heroes Breakfast in Minneapolis. Photo credit: Andy King

“I am very excited to say that I have become a blood donor myself because I know how important it is to give something that means something – the gift of life. You never know when you or a loved one will be the one that needs blood.”

Ross is thankful for the heroes who helped save her life and has become an advocate for the Red Cross and a true hero herself. In 2014, she received an American Red Cross Minnesota Region Heroes Award that honors those who have made the simple, yet powerful decision to put their personal needs aside in order to help others.

Ross underwent another surgery last fall on her leg. She was fit for a new prosthetic that improves her mobility and allows her to run. She’s currently training for the 2015 Run for Blood walk and run event at Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis on July 25.

Register today for the run and walk for blood!

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

The Greatest Gift

The 2014 Run for Blood is only weeks away. Proceeds from this annual event benefit American Red Cross North Central Blood Services. In other words, your participation, whether you run or walk, helps the Red Cross provide life-saving blood to someone like our own Jacqueline “Jacks” Michaud, who needed blood to save her life after childbirth. 

Jacks Michaud and her family.
Jacks Michaud and her family.

I was 17 years old the first time I gave blood in the gymnasium of my high school.  I never questioned the choice of giving, I gave because I could (and it got me out of 5th period).  After that initial experience, I have continued to give. I give because I can; I have never expected anything in return.

Fast-forward years later as my husband and I are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our first child.  I am nine months pregnant, round and happy despite the morning sickness lasting all nine months.  My husband and I had read every book, taken every class, and planned, planned, planned for baby.  Our daughter arrived on June 3rd at 3:33 a.m.  We were instantly in love and in awe of this seven-pounds nineteen-inch little person who came into the world with a smile on her adorable face. However, with all my planning I was not prepared for what happened next.

Our joy was soon cut short as I began to experience medical complications after my labor and delivery.  The post-delivery complications caused me to hemorrhage.  I remained confident and euphoric in my post-delivery baby bliss, but soon began to feel ill and faint.  I only remember truly becoming disturbed when I witnessed the nurses exchanging glances of worry when documenting the continued blood loss.  At that moment it became real, my life was no longer about myself, just a few moments prior my entire existence changed, and now I was responsible for a little baby and her entire existence.  Fear set in.

Jack's infant daughter.
Jack’s infant daughter.

The next memory I have is of my nurse hanging a lovely red bag of blood on my I.V. stand. I remember thinking to myself that some generous person, whoever they are, will be forever tied to me, giving me a part of them so that I can be a mom, thankful that they gave because they could.

On that joyous day, I was thankful that I was able to receive the needed transfusions my body needed.  I was able to be with my baby and my husband, and enjoy the precious newness and beauty of parenthood while putting aside the fears of hours past.

That day I made a commitment to myself the moment I received that first pint of beautiful red life.  I promised that I would be a better and more consistent blood donor, knowing that just maybe one day my donation could help another.

Every year around the time of my daughter’s birthday, my son’s birthday and my own birthday I donate blood because I can.  It is the greatest gift I can give.

Story by Jacqueline Michaud
Mom, Blood Donor, and Red Crosser

Click here to register for the 2014 Run for Blood, which will be held July 26 on Thomas Beach at Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. Not a runner? You can donate blood on race day.

Blood donations helped save preemie who was a “keeper walleye”

During this last week of National Blood Donor Month, we share this personal story from Michelle Rydberg at the American Red Cross St. Croix Valley Chapter based in Bayport, Minnesota. Thank you blood donors who helped save Madeline Rose’s life!

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Michelle and Chris hold their baby girl two weeks after her premature birth, St. Paul, MN, 2006.

August 2006 was the scariest time of my life.  What was supposed to be a routine prenatal visit, ended days later with an emergency c-section when I was diagnosed with preeclampsia, a condition that’s defined as high blood pressure and excess protein in the urine. Left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to serious, even fatal, complications for both the mother and baby. The only cure for this is delivery at 29 weeks. My little girl was about to be born 11 weeks early and I knew that she wasn’t ready. They were able to keep me stable enough for two days so that I could get a steroid injection to help develop her lungs. I wasn’t allowed to have visitors, phone calls, watch TV or even have bright lights on for fear that I would have a stroke or seizure. I just listened to that little heartbeat.

When it came time for delivery, I was terrified. I didn’t know what to expect. I was scheduled to take my first birthing class that night! They needed to do a c-section because the baby was breech and moving her for a natural delivery would cause too much stress on me and her. The procedure was fast and she was born without complications. They brought her to me for only a moment before taking her to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. Two pounds, ten ounces, fifteen inches long; my husband called her a “keeper walleye.”  I couldn’t believe how small, yet how perfect she looked. Like a tiny rosebud. And so, her name came to be Madeline Rose.

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Madeline Rose, two days old, needed blood donations that would help save her life, St. Paul, MN, 2006.

The excitement of becoming new parents was taken away from us as we had to see our little girl hooked up to machines, with wires monitoring everything. Her hands were so little that they fit through her dad’s wedding ring. Luckily the steroid shots worked, because her lungs were strong enough that she did not need a ventilator. Her hemoglobin, however, was low and she was very weak.  She wasn’t interested in eating and was having several “episodes” where she would stop breathing. They recommended doing a blood transfusion. 

I work for the American Red Cross and have been telling people for years the importance of blood donation. It wasn’t until my own daughter needed one, that I realized just how important this truly is. She needed something to help her survive and it was not something that myself, my husband, the doctors could just fix with medication or a procedure. She needed blood. Blood from a complete stranger. Madeline was in the NICU for two months before we were able to bring her home.  During that time she had two blood transfusions. Without them, I don’t know if she would have had the strength to survive.

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Madeline Rose, 7 years old, received blood transfusions that helped save her life after she was born prematurely in 2006.

Madeline Rose beat the odds and graduated from the NICU follow-up clinic with flying colors. She has absolutely no developmental delays or complications from being a preemie. She is now a happy, healthy, smart, beautiful, feisty seven-year-old who excels in school and life.

I recently gave blood and brought Madeline with me, not only because she was interested in the process, but because I wanted her to see the kindness in people, giving their own blood to save the lives of others.  I asked her what she thought as we were leaving and she said, “that’s pretty cool.” Yes, it is pretty cool. I encourage anyone who is healthy, to donate blood. It’s only an hour of your time, but can mean a lifetime to someone who needs it.

Click here to learn more about blood donation and to schedule a blood donation appointment.