Six things to know before blood donation

Do you know that only 3 out of 100 Americans donate blood each year, but every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood? To raise awareness for the need for new and current blood donors, we’re taking part in Missing Types. This international campaign highlights the missing A’s, B’s and O’s, the three main blood groups, from hospital shelves. 

Here’s another surprise: blood donation can be super easy. Once you’re seated comfortably, the actual donation time takes only 8 to 10 minutes.  To help bring more ease for new and continuing donors, below are six things we’d like you to know before donating blood. 

  1. You do not need to know your blood type. A national survey conducted earlier this year for the Red Cross revealed that 54% of people believe they need to know their blood type to donate blood. Find more eye-popping results here.
  2. You should be well-hydrated. Blood has a lot of water. To promote a good flow during donation and to prevent dizziness during or after, we recommend drinking an extra 16 oz. of liquid before donating. Hydrate after, too. Check out our fave water bottle that will help keep you hydrated on the go. 
  3. You should eat a healthy meal rich in iron and vitamin C while avoiding high-fat foods just prior to donation.  Your body needs iron to make new blood cells, replacing the ones lost through blood donations. Vitamin C promotes iron absorption. Find a list of iron rich foods here. Yum! 
  4. You should wear cozy clothes. Whatever’s on top should be loose and comfortable with short sleeves or sleeves that can be easily rolled up above the elbow during your donation. Find our classic T-shirt here in many colors. 
  5. You can speed up your appointment time. Complete a RapidPass® on the day of your donation, prior to arriving, and you’ll save time completing your health history that’s required before your donation can begin. Click here for more.
  6. You should remember to bring a picture ID.  Your ID can be one primary ID, such your Red Cross blood donor card or state driver’s license; or two other forms of secondary ID. Click here to check for acceptable forms of ID.

Now that you’re feeling more confident about blood donation, click here to schedule an appointment near you.  Need more tips? Watch this video of some pro blood donors. They make it look easy, because it is. Thanks!

Post by Lynette Nyman for the American Red Cross Minnesota Region
Sources include American Red Cross  and Red Cross Chat 

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.

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

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

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).

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!

family pic nicu (2)
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.

Madeline holding fingers (bigger)
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.

Madeline 2nd grade (2)
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. 

January is National Blood Donor Month!

Drayton Carlberg, donating blood for the first time at the 12 Hours of Giving on Decbember 23, 2013.
Drayton Carlberg, donating blood for the first time at the 12 Hours of Giving on December 23, 2013.

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!

Lia Capaldini, Augsburg College senior, donating blood for the first time at the 12 Hours of Giving on Decbember 23, 2013.
Lia Capaldini, Augsburg College senior, donating blood for the first time at the 12 Hours of Giving on Decbember 23, 2013.

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.

Hunter Carlberg (glasses)
Hunter Carlberg, donating blood for the first time at the 12 Hours of Giving on December 23, 2013.

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.