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.

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

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. 

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).

Help ensure a sufficient blood supply throughout the holidays

Winter 2015_Thanksgiving Critical Day ImageAs the holidays approach, people are getting busy – organizing dinner parties, plotting out Black Friday shopping strategies and planning family get-togethers. Lots of fun stuff awaits, and people want to feel good for the holidays, but not everyone does. Patients in hospitals are still in need of blood products from generous donors in good health.

Donors are especially needed in the weeks leading up to and after the holidays. Blood and platelet donations often decline from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day when festivities pull people away from their donation appointments. This often causes a drop in the blood available for patients in the winter months.

You can give someone the chance to feel better before the holidays are in full swing. Be part of something meaningful, and give blood or platelets through the American Red Cross to help someone hurt or sick. If you are unable to give blood, you can still help by hosting a Red Cross virtual blood drive, volunteering or making a financial donation.

As Thanksgiving approaches, reflect on your blessings and look for ways to give back to the community or someone less fortunate. Remember that giving an hour of your time and donating blood could give a patient needing blood the most valuable gift of all – the gift of life. Many families have started giving blood together on Thanksgiving Day, or over the Thanksgiving weekend, as a way of giving back and giving thanks.

To help encourage blood donations around the holidays, the American Red Cross has teamed up with celebrity chefs John Besh, Richard Blais, Rocco DiSpirito, Mike Isabella, Ellie Krieger and Ali Larter to bring gourmet recipes to donors’ kitchens. Those who come out to donate blood or platelets November 25-29 will receive a Red Cross mixing spoon and celebrity chef recipes, while supplies last.

Make a blood or platelet donation appointment now by downloading the Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS. Please share the need with others in your social network and use the hashtag #GiveWithMeaning.

Give blood at the Minnesota State Fair

msf2013_bloodMobileMAP-smallThe Minnesota State Fair is your chance to hit the rides, grab some food and help save lives! Every day at the fair is a chance to give hope. By giving blood through the Red Cross, donors offer people who need blood a chance to create memories that will last a lifetime.

As a thank you, all presenting donors will receive a special Red Cross gift. And to help increase donations over Labor Day weekend, all presenting blood donors from Sept. 5 through Sept. 7 will receive a Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last!

To make an appointment or for more information in advance of the fair, you can book your appointment via the Red Cross blood donation webpage (use sponsor code MN State Fair), the Red Cross Blood Donor App, or 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

At the fair, you can find the Red Cross bloodmobile parked outside the agriculture and horticulture building, just west of the space tower. A blood donor card or driver’s license, or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent), weigh at least 110 pounds and are generally in good health may be able to donate blood.

#ChooseYourDay to #RestocktheShelves and help save lives during the 2015 Great Minnesota Get Together!

P.S. Look for more Red Cross activities at the Minnesota State Fair on August 29 during Governor’s Fire Prevention Day and on September 1 during Military Appreciation Day!

 

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.)

IMG_8563
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).