Quincy Community Helping Continue Red Cross Mission through 12 Hours of Giving

The mission of the Red Cross continues even during the winter. The 16th Annual Quincy 12 Hours of Giving Blood Drive proved people in the community still want to help others in need, even during a pandemic.

The drive was held at the Quincy Knights of Columbus on December 11, 2020. Blood donors helped exceed this year’s goal. Thanks to the generosity of the community, 223 units of blood were collected. Blood donation is only made possible by the donors, who show up and roll up their sleeves.

Long-time Red Cross volunteer, Paul Soebbing, helped at this year’s drive.

“If I can be of service, I will be. It’s good to volunteer. Everyone should get out and volunteer if they can,” Paul says.

During this unprecedented year, eligible donors can feel good knowing that, by donating through the Red Cross, they may be helping patients.

We are grateful for media partners like KHQA News for helping to tell our Red Cross story.

 “It makes me feel like we are making a difference, partnering with the Red Cross. It’s a great feeling to help another person,” news anchor Rajah Maples says.

Blood drives are essential to ensuring the health of the community. The Red Cross will continue to hold blood drives during these challenging time to help meet patient needs.

 If you are healthy and feeling well, please make an appointment by visiting redcrossblood.org.

Written by Communications & Marketing Intern, Doreen Fosco

Lifesaving Awards: Dave Shrum recognized for actions on the golf course

While enjoying a game of golf with a friend in Carlyle, Illinois, Dave Shrum put his lifesaving training into action. On August 13, 2020, Dave and a friend arrived at the 14th hole when his friend fell to the ground.

“It was just the two of us and once he dropped, he was unconscious, I called 9-1-1 and knew what to do,” Dave says.

Dave has been trained in first aid and CPR since high school, but just two months prior to the medical emergency with his friend, he completed refresher training through the American Red Cross.

He started compressions on his friend and kept performing them until EMS crews arrived at their location on the golf course. Dave described it as a hot day, but he knew his friend’s life depended on him to push through the heat and continue compressions.

His friend eventually recovered. Dave says it was rewarding to know he survived the incident.

For his courageous act, Dave was awarded the American Red Cross Certificate of Merit during a virtual meeting with his colleagues present, who nominated him.

This is the highest award given by the American Red Cross to an individual or team of individuals who saves or sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Training Services course. The certificate bears the signature of the President of the United States, who is the honorary chairman of the American Red Cross, and the signature of the chairman of the American Red Cross.

Dave says being nominated by his colleagues was quite a surprised.

“I’m a pretty humble person. I don’t like a lot of extra attention, but it was nice. I really appreciated the award,” he says.

Dave adds, if people have the opportunity to take CPR classes it is a valuable skill that could help someone in need.

To learn more about American Red Cross Training Services and to find a first aid training course in your area visit redcross.org. To nominate someone for a Red Cross Lifesaving Award click here.

Written by Drew Brown, Regional Communications Manager

Lymphoma Survivor Credits Blood Donations for Gift of Life

For most young adults, a 30th birthday marks a new decade, a time to celebrate and say goodbye to your 20s. Amy Belluomini’s 30th year of life was nothing she could have ever anticipated.

In May 2018, Amy went in for her annual mammogram, just as she had since she was young. Her mother beat breast cancer as a young woman, which made it important for Amy to get regular mammograms to stay on top of her breast health.

This mammogram, though, looked abnormal. After ruling out breast cancer, doctors conducted several tests. Three weeks later, Amy received the news. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 T-Cell lymphoblastic lymphoma, a very rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“I was almost in a state of disbelief, because I hadn’t been experiencing many physical symptoms,” Amy says. “I didn’t have any physical warnings that something was going wrong. That was the most horrifying thing. I’d been living my life, spending time with friends, and now you’re telling me that I have this aggressive widespread disease?”

Doctors explained that the cancer was aggressive, but quite treatable. Amy first received a bone marrow biopsy but then more tough news. Her platelet count was dangerously low. She spent the next month at Rush University Medical Center, beginning chemo to start treating the cancer. She would do chemo for two years to keep her in remission, but that was no guarantee the cancer wouldn’t return.

Amy’s best option was to receive a stem cell transplant. Amy’s bone marrow contained 70% of the disease, initially. After her initial chemo treatment, it was in remission, but had a very high chance of coming back. The stem cell transplant would wipe out her immune system and replace it with a healthy one, in this case, her brother’s. He was a match for Amy (pictured left).

In August 2018, the stem cell transplant took her brother eight hours at Rush and gave Amy a second chance at life.

“This little bag of cells restored my life with healthy cells,” Amy says. “We destroyed that part of me because it couldn’t be trusted to help me moving forward. From the start, all of my brothers were, without hesitation, willing to swab. They were so selfless. My brother gifted me my life, a second chance at life. I couldn’t be more grateful.”

Amy again stayed in the hospital, isolated for a month, in order to rebuild her immune system and blood cells after the transplant.

Since the cancer had impacted Amy’s bone marrow, she required more than 40 blood product transfusions throughout her treatment to keep her well. This included platelets, red blood cells and more. She says without the Red Cross and its lifesaving blood collection mission, she wouldn’t be here.

“Going back multiple years, I used to donate blood during college at St. Mary’s in Notre Dame, Indiana,” Amy says. “At the time, I never really saw the impact of my donation. Now, I have a completely deeper understanding of that process. I’ve bridged the gap between donor and donation. It’s truly the gift of life.”

Nearly two years since her transplant, Amy chooses to give back to those who need some love and care, just like she did.

She visits Rush to offer support for blood cancer patients, in the same unit that she once stayed in. She makes monthly visits to bring catered meals to nurses and staff and posts flyers to let patients know she’s there to help. She brings care packages to help patients during their treatments with items like lip balm, ginger chews and lemon heads, items that she appreciated during her toughest days. Socks, blankets, word searches and cards are also items to keep patients busy.

“Besides the items, I think it’s providing a space for people to connect,” Amy says. “You’re going through such an isolated time. Just bringing other patients together, family together, providing that connection was meaningful, to know that they’re thought of and there’s some one that understands.”

“I think it’s encouraging for them to see someone doing well because it’s hard to see that light at the end of the tunnel,” Amy says. “It provides them with hope that maybe they could get to that level.”

Now more than ever, Amy wants others to know how much of an impact each blood donation can make.

“Donating blood is gifting life to those in need,” she says. “It may seem like a simple thing, but it’s so essential and it’s such a need product. You’re performing a selfless life-saving act. It truly has an impact on those who are ill.”

Amy remains active and is working from home as a senior procurement analyst at a major food products corporation. She’s feeling great and continues to go for frequent follow up appointments. She is still in remission today.

“To see where I am now versus two years ago, I’m doing really great.”

Written by Hannah Allton, Regional Communications Manager

Veterans Week: Serving Those Who Serve Our Country

Through its Service to the Armed Forces program (SAF), the American Red Cross helps members of the U.S. military, veterans and their families prepare for, cope with and respond to the challenges of military service. One of its signature programs is the Family Contact Card program in which families of active military members are contacted by Red Crossers to make them aware of our military support programs, both at home and around the world. A case is opened for each family, and any follow-up activity can be monitored and noted in our client management system.

During our AmeriCorps Veterans Week National Service project in November, 14 Illinois Disaster Corps and Safe Families members were trained by SAF staff and through online classes to work with the Family Contact Card program. Three AmeriCorps staff members coordinated and facilitated this project with our SAF program.

“It was amazing to be a part of this outreach project,” explains Sara Stepanovich, an Illinois Disaster Corps member (pictured below). “To get to connect with military families, many of whom were first-time military families, was extremely impactful.”

Over the course of Veterans Day week, November 8th-14th, 13 AmeriCorps members contacted 638 military families statewide in Illinois and served more than 450 household members directly via telephone. Additionally, one member assisted with internal coordination activities in relation to these cases. This entailed validating 120 Family Contact Cards filled out by new recruits at Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) before they leave for boot camp. These cards provide the valuable contact information that is used for the Family Contact Card program and allows the Red Cross to connect with their families during their military service.

“We were not only able to extend our gratitude for their service member and their family, but also let them know the American Red Cross is there to support them 24/7 while their loved one is away,” Sara says. “You could tell that knowing the Red Cross is consistent and reliable support, when so much else was unknown, brought families comfort.”

Each AmeriCorps member committed at least eight hours of cumulative direct service time (in addition to training), totaling 112 hours served for our 2020 Veterans Week National Service project.

To learn more about our AmeriCorps program at the Illinois Red Cross, visit https://www.redcross.org/local/illinois/volunteer/americorps.html.

Written by Hannah Allton, Regional Communications Manager

Conquering COVID-19: How to Give Back to those Still Fighting

Vincent Johnson is a photojournalist and owns a media company in Chicago. At the beginning of the pandemic, as business slowed and forced him to pivot, like many other business owners, he started shooting a documentary on people who were quarantining. Little did he know, the script would soon be flipped.

By May, Vincent started feeling off. He’d been jogging a lot, but soon started getting short of breath whenever he exercised. Even climbing stairs and talking became difficult. He then lost his taste and smell and soon after was diagnosed with COVID-19.

“You start lying to yourself about what you have,” Vincent says. “When I lost sense of smell, I started googling ways I could lose my sense of smell, trying to blame it on other stuff. You start telling yourself that’s the reason. But then you start the shortness of breath, and you know you have it.”

Once diagnosed, Vincent immediately thought of his family.

“When I officially had my smell gone for 24 hours, I made videos to say goodbye to my wife and kids,” he says. “My wife was in New York working as a physician’s assistant at the hospitals helping COVID patients. If I went into the hospital here (in Chicago), she wasn’t going to see me. The kids weren’t going to see me.”

Thankfully, Vincent was able to make a full recovery and, in return, paid it forward to others still fighting it. He donated blood to the Red Cross in July and found out he still had antibodies. He was soon encouraged to donate his convalescent plasma. He signed up and donated.

“I always tell people, just go. It’s not that hard,” Vincent says. “You can help somebody out. I know that it’s going to go somewhere and it’s valuable.”

Vincent donates blood with the Red Cross about three times a year, as well. He’s been donating since he was a kid growing up in Joliet.

“I feel like it’s my duty. If it allows somebody to hug somebody they love afterwards, it’s worth it to me.”

As the pandemic wears on, the need for blood and convalescent plasma continues. If you are healthy and feeling well, we encourage you to donate blood. If you have fully recovered from COVID-19, consider donating your plasma. Visit redcrossblood.org to schedule an appointment today.

Written by Hannah Allton, Regional Communications Manager

Lifesaving Awards: Red Cross Recognizes Individuals for Selfless Actions

The American Red Cross National Lifesaving Awards program recognizes and honors individuals and teams who save or sustain a life using skills learned in a Red Cross Training class.

This year, Cory Pearson was recognized with the Lifesaving Award for Professional Rescuers. His instructor, Dan Kish, received the Lifesaving Instructor Award.

Cory Pearson (left) and Dan Kish (bottom)

Dan’s lifesaving teachings were critical in saving a man’s life at one of the pools at Naval Station Great Lakes. On October 17, 2017, Cory Pearson, a lifeguard to whom Dan had taught CPR and AED, spotted a distressed swimmer. Cory brought the man out of the water and with the help of teammates, performed CPR.

Dan was at the pool that day and remembers Cory’s actions vividly. “He was the closest to the victim and I saw him quickly respond and activate the emergency action plan.” Dan says. “He got the victim out of the water quickly. I was proud to watch one of my students perform a correct rescue and save someone’s life.”

As a swimming coach and lifeguard, Dan is very much aware of the importance of knowing lifesaving skills such as how to respond to aquatic emergencies, performing CPR and how to use an AED. “I have a seven-month old daughter, and we are always near a lake or pool. Everybody should know these lifesaving skills, “ Dan explains. “This helps build confidence in the rescuer. People should also stay current in their training as it’s always changing and evolving for the best. Emergencies can happen anywhere, anytime and you need to be ready.”

Also, this week, the Red Cross presented the American Red Cross Certificate of Merit to Petty Officer 2nd Class, Elias Sandoval of the U.S. Navy, who is trained in American Red Cross Advance Life Support. On December 6, 2019, Elias was driving in Jacksonville, North Carolina, when he noticed a man laying on the highway. He realized that the man was unconscious. Elias brought his personal AED and first aid kit to where the gentleman was and after assessing his condition, began to perform chest compressions and rescue breaths. Thanks to Elias’ prompt actions, the man began to respond. The skills learned in the Red Cross course undoubtedly helped Elias sustain a life on that day.

Elias, who is currently assigned to the Great Lakes Naval Base in Lake Forest, has been a CPR instructor for a couple of years. He told us why it’s so important for him to teach people the skills that he has learned with the Red Cross. “I think it’s very important for everybody to be certified and be able to provide CPR because seconds matter and it’s up to you to make a difference,” said Elias.

If you’re interested in learning lifesaving skills through the Red Cross, visit redcross.org/takeaclass for information.

Written by Isis Chaverri, Regional Communications & Marketing Manager

Retired Rush University Medical Center CEO, Dr. Larry Goodman Discusses Importance of Red Cross Antibody Testing During Pandemic

Today, the Red Cross is testing each blood donation for COVID-19 antibodies. During this uncertain time, we know that individuals and public health organizations are eager to learn more about COVID-19. And the Red Cross is uniquely positioned to offer our blood donors insight about their possible exposure to this coronavirus.

Implementing this free antibody testing to the public is costing the Red Cross an estimated $3 million per month, but the positive impacts — offering our blood donors insight about their possible exposure to this coronavirus — and providing valuable public health information – are important contributions in addressing this ongoing pandemic.

This fall, our team at the Illinois Red Cross spoke with Dr. Larry Goodman, President Emeritus – Rush University and Retired CEO, Rush University Medical Center and the Rush University System for Health, to explore why antibody testing and convalescent plasma collection is so important to our hospitals and public health systems, and how the Red Cross has worked hard to create strong partnerships with medical systems here in Illinois and around the country. The Red Cross has been the blood supplier to Rush University Medical Center for over 25 years.

Dr. Goodman is currently President Emeritus of Rush University and the retired CEO of Rush University Medical Center and the Rush University System for Health. He was a Greater Chicago Red Cross board member from 2006-2011. He says Rush’s partnership with the Red Cross is a natural fit.

“We (at Rush) see people often at the worst moments of their life, like the Red Cross,” Dr. Goodman explains. “But if you drew a diagram of where these two organizations impact the community, they overlap. Not perfectly, but complimentary. Both organizations recognize that health is far more than just treating disease (or responding to a disaster) when it occurs; it is also about prevention. Additionally, it’s about neighborhood safety, education, and the many other factors that contribute to forming healthy communities. And these building blocks to health must be available to everyone because they all factor in to extending people’s lives. It’s the basic idea of how we measure the health of our society.”

How Your Antibody Test Could Help Those in Need

Dr. Goodman’s background as an internal medicine and infectious disease physician offers him a wealth of knowledge on how the Red Cross is working together with hospital partners in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tessia Phillips donated convalescent plasma in June 2020 after recovering from COVID-19.

In this fight against the coronavirus, Red Cross antibody tests will be helpful to identify individuals who have COVID-19 antibodies, which suggest they have been previously infected.  This is useful knowledge for them and provides additional data on monitoring the extent of the disease in our community.   Additionally,  these previously infected individuals may qualify to be convalescent plasma donors. Convalescent plasma is a type of blood donation collected from COVID-19 survivors who have antibodies that may help patients who are actively fighting the virus. Right now, requests to the Red Cross from hospitals for convalescent plasma is outpacing our collections of this potentially useful treatment. 

“When we’re infected with organisms, we make antibodies to those organisms,” Dr. Goodman explains. “We make a small army that is sent out to destroy the virus. However, it takes 10-14 days to make antibodies. During the period that antibodies are produced, you are left with your other host defenses, like white blood cells and other factors, to stave off infection. If we could find a way to get patients antibodies earlier during that 10-14 day window, it might make a difference. So if somebody already made those antibodies against COVID-19 and survived the infection, we can draw blood off (the convalescent plasma), separate the blood and antibodies, and infuse that into the ill person to be available in the early days of infection prior to that patient’s own antibody formation.”

While logical, the efficacy of convalescent plasma is still under investigation in the treatment of COVID-19, but it has been useful in other illnesses. This is the same concept behind the recently released monoclonal antibody therapies. Dr. Goodman believes it has been important that the Red Cross paved the way in offering this antibody testing free of charge to donors because of its trusted brand and reputation in communities.

“The Red Cross has a great reputation, and I think it comes back to some of the values of impartiality, neutrality, and commitment to the community,” Dr. Goodman explains. “Those are values that every organization is reexamining. The Red Cross makes a major effort to serve diverse populations and that’s very valuable.”

“People remember who’s showing up,” Dr. Goodman said. “The Red Cross shows up to fires or floods, regardless of where they occur. To have a nonprofit also participate in answering critical research questions that might lead to new therapies concerning this pandemic is another important contribution added to the invaluable gift of blood.”

New Red Cross Blood Donation Site Opens in Heart of Illinois Medical District

With the addition of The R. Scott Falk Family Blood Donation Site (Falk family pictured left), located at The Rauner Center, right in the heart of Chicago’s medical district, the Red Cross is able to collect convalescent plasma and test every blood donation for COVID-19 antibodies, while also ensuring that our hospital partners receive these and other critical blood products as swiftly as possible. Considering most of the blood that hospitals like Rush uses comes from the Red Cross and the density of hospitals in and near the Illinois Medical District, this proximity is critical.

“Timing is important with most types of blood transfusions,” Dr. Goodman says. “Availability is critical. Hospitals can’t keep all the blood they need on hand. They can go through 10-20 units in a transplant. In addition, this new site has capabilities that weren’t available previously in the medical district. Different kinds of blood products are now available. Almost all the blood products from Rush come from the Red Cross. There are also trauma centers at Stroger and other nearby centers. There’s a lot of need. Minutes mean everything. It’s a valuable use of the space at the Rauner Center.”

Now more than ever, the need for blood remains constant. Emergencies don’t stop during COVID-19, and every donation makes a direct impact on people that can’t wait for lifesaving blood.

“This is the time. While COVID-19 happened and is a dominant factor in health care and our everyday lives, while all that is happening, all the rest of the chronic and acute illnesses continue,” Dr. Goodman explains. “People still have heart attacks, tumors, strokes, and need organ transplants. Blood transfusions remain a critical need and something that has become more acute at a time like this. That same critical quality of life, which is blood, has so many capabilities in it. This is a moment when people try to decide what they can do. There’s a lot they can do to reduce their own risk and improve the health of the community through blood donation to ensure that the supply is there when any of us might need it.”

Need for Blood and Convalescent Plasma Donors

The Red Cross is encouraging individuals who have fully-recovered from COVID-19 to give convalescent plasma but, most importantly, if you are healthy and feeling well, we encourage you to donate blood. Visit redcrossblood.org to schedule your appointment today. To learn more about donating convalescent plasma, visit redcrossorg/plasma4covid.

Written by Hannah Allton, Regional Communications Manager

APL#: 2020-APL-01316

Volunteer reflects on Red Cross memories after achieving huge milestone

Tess Sheil says being prepared is a skill she holds valuable, which has allowed her to help others in life from disaster response to helping people during medical emergencies.

She learned that at an early age, while in high school she took CPR classes through the Red Cross and  was able to help clear a woman’s airway on scene of a car accident in Moline, Illinois. That incident would blaze a long trail for her at the Red Cross.

Tess continued volunteering while in nursing school during the 70’s, and says she was inspired by one of her mentors and eventually went on to receive her Red Cross nursing pin.

 “My nursing instructor was a Red Cross nurse and I guess I just wanted to be like her, and I really did because she was just such a goodhearted person that I wanted to follow her footsteps,” she says.

Tess is a volunteer with the Red Cross Quad Cities and West Central Illinois and the Greater New York Chapter. She has completed more than 5,000 volunteer hours with the Red Cross!

She describes it as a pleasure to help educate and help those in need in both areas, while building memories that will last a lifetime.

While she has deployed multiple times over the last few decades, Tess shared some of her most memorable moments including helping after the September 11th attacks in New York City in 2001.

 “I went for the firefighters’ families,” she explained. “I went to the armory for the families there. That was part of my community that was impacted.”

During that time, she did anything she could to help survivors and their families including helping pass out water, made ribbons and simply had conversations with them.

“I wanted to help people feel that they had some sense of direction, because people didn’t know what was happening,” Tess says.

Her experience in New York has led her to focus more on mental health support at the Red Cross. She is currently the lead for the Red Cross National Staff Support Hotline, where staff or volunteers can call and receive any kind of help or advice they may need.

Aside from her role in the support hotline, she is also the Leadership Development Lead for the Illinois Region, and the Deployment Lead for the Greater Chapter of New York.

One of her most recent deployments was the Marshalltown, Iowa tornado is 2018. She remembers the huge sense of community and the many miracles that she was able to witness after the tornado.

Tess adds during her deployments, someone special always travels with her and that is Yokum. A stuffed animal monkey, who is a Red Cross volunteer with his own name tag and gear!

Over the years, Yokum has listened to children and even adults, who may not feel comfortable speaking directly to another person after a disaster.

With her background in mental health, Tess says Yokum has served as an outlet for dozens and provided comfort for people’s darkest moments.

Now, Tess volunteers virtually helping fellow volunteers and providing training through different Red Cross programs in both states. She makes sure people realize that they are making a difference in their communities.

“It’s a place I know where I can make the world a better place. The goal for my entire career was to leave the world better than I came into it and I can do that at the Red Cross.”

To learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer visit redcross.org/volunteer.

*All photos taken before the pandemic

Written by Communications & Marketing Intern, Justin Wang

Recognized for lifesaving actions

A typical work day for Matt Brewer and Dalton Cordier at the Illinois Association of Realtors office in Springfield, Illinois, turned into a lifesaving day.

On September 12, 2019, Dalton witnessed one of the drivers from the association collapse while completing a delivery.

Trained in American Red Cross Adult First Aid/CPR/AED, he realized the severity of the situation and called 9-1-1 along with alerting colleague Matt Brewer.

Matt, who served as a volunteer firefighter in New Berlin, Illinois, started to perform chest compressions. Both stayed with the driver until emergency crews arrived and continued to provide care for the driver, who survived.

Matt says he was initially shocked by what happened despite serving as a firefighter but he and Dalton are thankful they were able to help.

“I was very humbled, the whole experience was very humbling for sure,” he adds.

During a recent South Central Illinois Board of Directors meeting both men were recognized for their courageousness.

Matt was awarded the American Red Cross Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action. The award is given to people, who step up in an emergency and help save or sustain a life.

Dalton was awarded the American Red Cross Certificate of Merit. This is the highest award given by the American Red Cross to a person or team of individuals who save or sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Training Services course.

His certificate bears the signature of the President of the United States, who is the honorary chairman of the American Red Cross, and the signature of the chairman of the American Red Cross.

Both Dalton and Matt exemplify the mission of the Red Cross to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.

To learn more about American Red Cross Training Services and to find a first aid training course in your area click here.

Written by Communications & Marketing Intern, Justin Wang

Giving back through blood donations and time

Kelly Easton dedicates her time to the Illinois Red Cross through blood donations and helping organize blood drives. After a battle with cancer, she describes how she became motivated to give back to her community in any way that she could.

“Once I got the all clear, I began donating blood. Now every 56 days I’m donating,” Kelly proudly says.

Besides donating blood, Kelly is also raising awareness in her community about the importance of blood donation in Southern Illinois.

“I was emailing people in different communities trying to recruit people for blood donations. I was sending out emails to church leaders, village board members, presidents, anyone I could find really,” Kelly explains.

She also hopes that more people across Illinois will give some time to volunteering with the Red Cross, explaining that the time they give can be extremely valuable. “

Kelly’s reasoning for all her hard work is simple: “I guess I just like helping other people.”

To become a volunteer like Kelly, please visit redcross.org/volunteer. You can also make an appointment to donate blood at redcrossblood.org.

Written by Communications & Marketing Intern, Justin Wang