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.
“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
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.
Story by Vivi Engen, American Red Cross Intern, Minneapolis, Minnesota
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.)
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.)
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
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.
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.
As National Blood Donor Month, January is a great time to recognize our incredible donors and remind everyone that the need for blood is constant. Just a few weeks ago on December 23, 55 new blood donors, joined hundreds of veteran donors for the 12 Hours of Giving Holiday Blood Drive. First-time blood donors, Drayton Carlberg (right), Lia Capaldini (below), and Hunter Carlberg (bottom right) participated in this extraordinary event which collected 458 pints of blood – which was 92% of our goal!
Weather and road conditions have improved, but recent severe winter weather has taken a toll on blood and platelet donations, both regionally and across the country. As of Thursday, Jan. 9, approximately 300 blood drives across 25 states were canceled across the U.S. due to the snow and extreme cold. The blood drive cancellations resulted in a shortfall of nearly 8,800 blood and platelet donations since Jan. 2. The Red Cross is seeing an urgent need for platelet donors, as well as blood donors with types O positive and negative, A negative and B negative blood. Eligible donors with these blood types are strongly encouraged to make an appointment to give in the coming days.
So, in honor of National Blood Donor Month this January, please help us meet our blood donation goals. On average, the American Red Cross must collect about 15,000 pints of blood every day from volunteer blood and platelet donors to meet the needs of patients. Eligible donors in the North Central Blood Services Region can help boost donations immediately. Red Cross blood donation centers in the Region will temporarily offer extended hours to allow for more blood donation appointments. From Jan. 10 to Jan. 20, 2014 Red Cross blood donation centers will add one additional hour each day. Also, please join the Red Cross in thanking all blood donors for their help in ensuring a stable blood supply for patients all across the country.
The Golden Gophers turned out in spades for the Ninth Annual American Red Cross Homecoming Blood Drive at the University of Minnesota. Everyone—students, professors, and alumni came together to save lives.
For Chuck Seymour, a senior and Homecoming King Candidate, it was his first time donating blood (GO CHUCK!). With a lot of reluctance and slight fear of donating and needles, Chuck met Geoff Kaufmann, CEO of the American Red Cross North Central Blood Services Region, who led him through the entire donation process (GO GEOFF!).
Geoff explained that one whole blood donation typically can help save three lives. And with an average of 22-25 blood drives in Minnesota each day, this generates vital help to those who need the gift of life. “It’s so great that this generation is willing to donate,” said Geoff. “The older generation felt a dedication to supplying blood and a lot of these people aren’t able to anymore due to chronic diseases. So, it’s a great thing to see this generation step up and donate their time and blood. The University of Minnesota is a huge support to the American Red Cross and it’s always good to be here.”
To help ease fears, friendly student volunteers (GO GOPHERS!) wearing maroon & gold Legendary U Homecoming t-shirts created an inviting room filled with snacks and festive music for the donors. Gopher student volunteers helped care for people post donation by monitoring how they felt and offering juice, water and snacks. Their volunteer support showed that this generation of students is indeed Legendary.
Kirby Schmidt, another senior and Homecoming King Candidate, was proud to show his Gopher Pride by donating his 9th time (GO KIRBY!). He wants future University donors to know that it’s easy and anyone can do it. “I recommend eating a big bowl of Raisin Bran and drinking 3-4 glasses of water when starting your day of the donation.”
In all, approximately 125 volunteers and 220 potential donors participated, making this drive a major contributor and partner to this cause. This was done by including pre-registration for those on a tight schedule or quick registration for those who just happened to walk by and felt compelled to donate.