Where Your Blood Goes After You Donate

In the Chicago Red Cross office, there is a poster stretching down the length of a wall. On the right side of the poster, printed in white text on a red background, a paragraph tells the story of Amy. At the age of ten, Amy was told that she had leukemia. As she battled this, she went to chemotherapy every six weeks. Also during this time, Amy received over 100 pints of blood from donors to help as she fought the disease.

Heidi Reed sits in a chair after her donation

When people donate blood to the Red Cross, it can be easy to forget the impact that their blood is having. Volunteers give their blood at a blood drive, and once the drive ends, the Red Cross packs up and leaves. The donors walk away and continue on with their normal day, and they do not get to see where their blood has gone or, more importantly, to whom. Part of the nobility of blood donation is that those giving blood, without knowing where their blood will go or whom it will help, give anyways.

At the Chicago Red Cross building, I learned about the great lengths the Red Cross takes to maintain the integrity of their blood services branch.

For instance, after donation, donated blood is given a unique identification number, and samples of the blood are sent to a national testing center. There, the Red Cross catalogs the blood type of the donation and ensures that it is pure of disease. While the sample is being tested, the donation is spun in a centrifuge and divided into three parts: The red cells, the platelets, and the plasma. Each of these three can be donated to different people for different situations. In this way, one blood donation can save the lives of three people. Once the testing center confirms that the donation is free of disease, it is delivered to a hospital, where it is given to people who need it.

Nicole Thompson finishes her donation

Every two seconds, someone in America needs blood. This could be a mother experiencing complications in childbirth, a car accident victim, or someone, like Amy, who require regular blood transfusions to battle cancer. Donations save these people. Donations saved Amy.

After many rounds of chemotherapy and many transfusions, Amy defeated cancer. She has been cancer-free for almost twenty years now, is married, and has a son. “I hope people realize that blood and platelet donations cannot only help a patient in need, but can have an impact on future generations,” she once said. “My family and I are living proof of that.”

It is unlikely that any of the people who donated to Amy know of the effect that they have had. And Amy is not alone. Everyday, there are people who require blood to survive, people who have been diagnosed with cancer, or undergo a medical emergency. It is donations from normal people with normal lives, who may never meet the people they donate to, that save lives.

To all of our blood donors, thank you.

Written by Gordon White, American Red Cross Communications Intern


Over 800 Pints Collected at 2018 ABC-7 Great Chicago Blood Drive

“It’s the right thing to do… you don’t really know who you’re going to help and maybe they’ll give back someday,” said Michael Matura as he donated blood at the 2018 Great Chicago Blood Drive. This is the fourth annual drive and it is a product of the teamwork between the American Red Cross and ABC 7 Chicago. Radio station, iHeartMedia, and the Univision news station also partnered with the Red Cross on this event.

Over the one-day blood drive, 824 pints of blood were collected between the Merchandise Mart in Chicago and the Drake Hotel in Oak Brook. That amounts to thousands of people who can be helped as one pint of blood can help save up to three lives.

Each donor had their own motivation. Marlow Hicks said, “In the past year, in the U.S. alone, we’ve had a need because of the natural disasters. When Hurricane Harvey hit last summer, blood banks were in need of donors to keep up with the demand coming from those injured in the storm and its aftermath. The need was even greater because blood drives in Texas were cancelled due to flooding.”

However, there were also repeat donors, such as Matura, who came in to donate because they feel that donating regularly is the right thing to do. Ryan Treaseh is a regular donor and said, “I’m a giving person and I like helping others.” For one woman, Nirali Vora, her donation was part of a larger personal goal, “I turn 35 next month and I told myself I would do 35 good things.”

Jim Piacentini has been donating blood regularly for more than 30 years and is also on the bone marrow list. For him, the experience became more personal a few months ago when his mother needed a blood transfusion. “Her hemoglobin count was low, so they needed to boost it up… I said to the nurse right there, ‘can I donate now?’” Though he was not able to at that moment, he did return later to make a blood donate. He said, “she’s doing well now. Her hemoglobin is up. Whoever’s blood it was, I’m thanking them.”

Briget Sanfilippo

Briget Sanfilippo’s daughter was diagnosed with aplastic anemia at the age of five and has had many blood transfusion during her treatment.

The need for blood also hit Briget Sanfilippo’s family, whose daughter was diagnosed with aplastic anemia at the age of five. Aplastic anemia is caused when damage to one’s bone marrow prevents the production of new blood cells. Sanfilippo said her daughter “had a relapse about three years ago and she’s lived on and off of transfusions.” According to Sanfilippo, her daughter’s disease was so bad that she could have died from a hit to the head. While her daughter still needs a bone marrow transplant to fully recover, “she’s doing well, she’s just above transfusion levels.”

Sanfilippo recalled a moment during her daughter’s transfusions, “I looked up at that bag and thought that someone went out of their way to save my family.” This was Sanfilippo’s first time donating blood, she said, “I feel like it’s something I’ve always wanted to do because someone did it for me… hopefully I can be a regular donor.”

Each person who donated during the blood drive left with a donor sticker, a cookie and a smile. After donating, Hicks said, “I think if you can do it, you should. It’s super easy. I feel good about it.” The American Red Cross has blood drives almost daily in the Chicago and northern Illinois area throughout January and February. You can visit www.redcrossblood.org to find a drive based on your zipcode.

Written By: Eleanor Lyons, Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

Roller Derby’s Make em’ Bleed Kicks Off In Chicago

Known for being a tough contact sport, roller derby has a soft spot for giving back.


August 13th kicked off World Roller Derby week with the sport’s 82nd birthday celebration at Coliseum Park in Chicago where the sport was invented by Leo Seltzer, a Chicago native. World Roller Derby week pays homage to its Chicago roots while giving back to the community. During the celebration, donor registration was open to attendees for the blood drive “First Blood.”

The “First Blood” blood drive will be hosted at the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois on Sunday, October 29 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Roller derby athletes will be there in full uniform (skates too!) signing autographs, taking photos, handing out buttons, giving temporary tattoos and hosting some fun giveaways. You can register to donate by going here and entering the code DERBY to find the Chicago drive or you can call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-773-2767).

Roller derby is giving back nationwide! In collaboration with Brown Paper Tickets and the American Red Cross, roller derby will be hosting a series of blood drives across the country, called Make em’ Bleed. Over the past 4 years, this collaboration has collected more than 900 units of blood.


By: Rebecca Pilipchuk, Marketing & Communications Intern at the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Brookfield Zoo Blood Drive

Brookfield Zoo Blood Drive
Monserrat Figueroa spent her 10th birthday up close with a southwestern hawk while her mother rolled up a sleeve to help save lives. She and her siblings gathered around Saguaro the hawk with wide eyes to learn more facts about the bird. As her mother exited the blood donation room, Monserrat detailed the experience. The 3rd Annual Brookfield Zoo Blood Drive gave the chance to donate life-saving blood while also enjoying a day at the zoo with family. 

35503184044_bf34042c07_o Monserrat and Red Cross Volunteers pose with Saguaro the hawk.

“Are you proud of your mom for helping people today?” I asked Monserrat. She nodded her head excitedly. Her mother, Rocio Figueroa, was one of over 200 people who donated blood at the event on August 2nd. 
Many of the donors had given blood before. A couple donated together for the second time, a young girl donated for the third time, and an elderly man shared that he had donated to the Red Cross over 15 times before. When asked about his reason for donating, he answered that it was because he felt like he should. Without a direct connection to someone in need of blood, he had the empathy and the drive take action.

36338052695_3c759f4677_o Woman donates blood for the third time.

Thank you to all of the donors who found their reason to donate to blood at the Brookfield Zoo.
Join the American Red Cross at a blood drive near you to help save lives.
By: Lucia Varlotta, American Red Cross Communications Intern

Thank you for donating blood!

Thank you for donating blood!

January is a critical-need time for blood especially when holiday breaks and seasonal weather often reduce blood donations.

ABC 7 Chicago once again generously hosted the annual Great Chicago Blood Drive on Jan. 9, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency and the Drake Oak Brook Hotel. While helping to save lives, participants enjoyed entertainment from Medieval Times and received a free ABC 7 Great Chicago Blood Drive T-shirt.

The event collected a total of 684 units of blood! Watch live coverage from ABC 7 Chicago.

Thank you to all blood donors, volunteers, and sponsors for your generosity!

Diane Calamaras Honored as American Red Cross 2016 Blood Services Hero

IL-Blood-Services-Award(CHICAGO, IL) – When young patients with blood disorders and their families come to Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital for their regular hemoglobin treatments, they can count on seeing a familiar face. Many have grown up knowing Diane Calamaras, APN, as the nurse practitioner who’s been at their side since their first blood transfusion.

“Without these treatments, they would not be able to have a good, quality life like the rest of us,” Diane said. “Being able to help them achieve a healthier and more normal life is very gratifying.”

Diane treats up to 70 patients with chronic illnesses each month, facilitating as many as 1,000 blood transfusions a year for infants as young as two months old to adults. They suffer from blood disorders like sickle cell disease, thalassemia and acute anemia. Her patients’ bodies cannot make normal red blood cells, which are necessary to carry oxygen around the body and enable proper growth and development.

“Diane is a hero to her patients, simply because she cares,” said Dr. Alexis Thompson, Hematology Section Head at Lurie Children’s Hospital. “Whether it is a family who is coping with their infant who may be receiving the very first of what will likely be a lifetime of transfusions, or an older child whose transfusions ensure they can remain active without other disease-related complications, Diane provides reassurance, education and compassionate care.”

When patients come to Diane for their regular transfusions, which can be as often as twice a month, they are fatigued, pale and may have debilitating pain. Diane gives them lifesaving blood that puts warm color back in their face and makes them feel better again for a little while. When they see Diane they know they have a friend who’s with them for the long haul.

Diane’s been doing this work at the Lurie Children’s Hospital blood transfusion center since 2002 and has 30 years of nursing experience. She started her medical career as a candy striper when she was a teenager and also worked in nursing homes, but children are where her heart is, and that’s why for most of her career she has served in pediatric care.

“I love what I do. I love that I can help people,” she said. “I never wanted to be anything other than a nurse.”

The Blood Services Award is presented by Walgreens to an individual(s) or organization who promotes community blood donation awareness and helps to build the community blood supply.

The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is honoring local people who demonstrated acts of heroism in the community at the organization’s 14th annual Heroes Breakfast, Thursday, April 28 at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave. For more information: http://www.redcross.org/news/article/local/il/chicago/American-Red-Cross-Honors-Local-Heroes.

 Written by: Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Like Mother Like Daughter: Passing on Good Habits

24521463025_c034240d57_o(CHICAGO) – Robyn Deren of Oak Brook has been donating blood for nearly 20 years. As a donor at the ABC7 Great Chicago Blood Drive that took place Jan. 20 at Union Station and the Drake Hotel in Oak Brook, she had two special people at her side: daughters Abigail, 5 years, and Madison, 5 months.

“I wanted to introduce the 5-year-old so that she can see that it’s not scary and doesn’t hurt; it’s a few minutes and you’re done,” Deren said. “She sees me giving and hopefully she will do it when she’s old enough.”

Deren was one of hundreds from the Chicago area who ventured into the cold to participate in the blood drive. Winter is especially important as donations typically decrease during this time of year, creating a greater need. Despite this, the Jan. 20 drive collected a record amount of more than 620 units.

Someone is in need of a blood transfusion every 2 seconds in the U.S., and the Red Cross provides approximately 40% of the nation’s blood supply. An adult gives about one pint of blood during a donation and that amount alone has the potential to save up to three lives.

Blood is needed for patients with various medical conditions such as accident and burn victims, heart surgery patients, organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease.

“You can save a life with your donation,” Deren said. “We all need blood one day; it’s free, and your body will make it again.”

Every day, the Red Cross needs 14,000 blood donations to meet nationwide demand. Every donation is important, and the Red Cross is committed to maintaining a diverse blood supply. Eligible donors are encouraged to make an appointment to give blood by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or by visiting redcrossblood.org.

Written by: Marta Juaniza, Public Affairs Volunteer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois