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. 

#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.