Giving After Receiving: Emery’s Story

Twelve years ago, Emery Taylor underwent organ transplant surgery which impacted him in many ways. Most significantly, because of his double organ transplants, Emery was inspired and has become a dedicated blood donor.

“I needed blood transfused during my surgery. Afterwards, all I could think was ‘someone selflessly donated their blood without knowing who it was going to and how it would save their life’. That someone who needed it to live was me and now it’s my turn.

Emery who is legally blind, makes arrangements with a ride share service to take him to and from his blood donation appointments and very little stops him from making his appointments, “We make time for the things we really care about. Donating blood is a simple thing to do and I urge everyone to give of themselves. I make it a priority because I was on the receiving end, and I know the difference it made in my life. Make it a priority. Donating blood is such a simple thing to do and you don’t know when you may be on the receiving end.”

Emery enjoys time with family when not advocating for the sight impaired or promoting blood donations.

Every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood as a result of surgery, an accident, cancer, sickle cell disease, a mother during labor, and many other instances. The blood on the shelf is what doctors count on during these times and the Red Cross counts on the generosity of blood donors to maintain a steady supply of blood on the shelves.

“I don’t let my vision loss stop me. Please, don’t let anything stop you from giving the gift of life.”

In addition to being a blood donor advocate, Emery dedicates his time with Sights Unlimited of Chicago Heights, a community-based support group for those who are blind or visually impaired and, in the near future, aims to host blood drives accessible to the visually impaired.

It is important that the Red Cross has a sufficient blood supply on-hand to meet the needs of patients every day and be prepared for emergencies of all types, including those that can disrupt blood drives, or require blood or platelet transfusions. Visit RedCrossBlood.org to find a blood drive near you or to learn how you can host a blood drive of your own.

Written by Illinois Communications Manager Connie Esparza

A Second Chance at Life: Erin’s Story

“You just never know when it’s going to make a difference in someone’s life. Don’t hesitate to give blood. It’s such a worthwhile thing to do, and it can be life-saving – it saved my daughter’s life. People need blood.”
-Stephanie Brown

Stephanie Brown knew something wasn’t right. Her newborn daughter, Erin, was listless and rarely opening her eyes. Stephanie asked her pediatrician to run a blood test.

This particular blood test was familiar to Stephanie. She had worked as a lab tech at Duke University Medical Center’s neonatal unit, and the outcome often times was not a good one, in these types of scenarios.

The blood test confirmed what Stephanie had feared. Erin’s bilirubin level was 22, which is considered extremely high and dangerous. It was higher than any level Stephanie had seen, during her professional experience. Brain damage for Erin was a possibility at that moment; the condition also carried potentially fatal consequences.

Neither Stephanie nor her husband had a matching blood type. That’s when donated blood changed the narrative.

“Nobody’s blood matched hers, so we had to get emergency blood, said Stephanie. “Thank God someone had donated some A negative blood, and that’s when she got the total transfusion at four days old. It was a lot to go through.”

Erin stayed five days in the hospital after the blood transfusion, but the blood products used in that transfusion were instrumental in turning things around for her.

“It was truly an emergency. If we had waited any longer, who knows? We had a great outcome, but it didn’t have to go that way. If that blood wasn’t available, it wouldn’t have gone that way,” said Stephanie.

Now, Erin is a successful television news broadcaster, healthy and thankful for the people who chose to give the blood that helped save her life.

“Everyone deserves a chance to live. Blood donation can give someone that second chance at life, whether that’s a sick baby, or a cancer patient or someone who got into an accident,” she said. “We deserve a chance to live our lives and be the people we’re supposed to be.”

Erin understands some people are hesitant to give blood, but offers her real-life example of why it is so important to do so.

“A number for some people isn’t enough for them to take that step to donate blood, but there are people and families behind those numbers. In my situation, there was a really traumatized and heartbroken mom. I wouldn’t want any parent to go through that, and I definitely wouldn’t want any parent to experience what could have been my outcome, if that blood were not available.”
-Erin Brown

Visit redcrossblood.org to find a blood donation appointment near you. Thank you for giving the gift of blood!

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Jill Wrobel: A story of strength, determination, and gratitude

<strong>Jill Wrobel: A story of strength, determination, and gratitude</strong>

Inspired is one of the many emotions one walks away with after speaking with Jill Wrobel. An exceptional professional, devoted wife and daughter, and expectant mother, Jill received a diagnosis that shook her world—but not her strength and determination to not give up.

In 2011, at the young age of 30 and pregnant with her first child, Jill was diagnosed with choroidal melanoma, or cancer of the eye. While facing the decision to lose her eye and protecting her unborn baby’s well-being, Jill remained focused on living and treatment. Her love of research, data and statistics influenced her decision to have her eye removed and she delivered a healthy baby boy via caesarean section.

Fast forward to 2012, relishing in the love of her family and exciting work projects, Jill’s cancer returned, and she was advised to get her affairs in order. Instead, Jill forged ahead with immunotherapy over the next several years.  In 2018, this same therapy sent her into a health crisis that landed her in the ICU, in a coma, necessitating over 10 units of blood. It’s the donated blood she received that Jill credits to being alive.

“Someone, somewhere, donated their blood and I was blessed to be on the receiving end. So deeply grateful and humbled for this easy action that for me has had a tremendous impact. This generous and simple act gave me a chance at life. It has given me a chance to see my children grow when I had been told I had a 50/50 chance of living,” states Jill.

It’s now 2022 and Jill is living life to the fullest, paying it forward with numerous volunteer projects, and urging everyone to be a blood donor. “I hope, if you’re eligible and able, that you will consider being a regular blood donor. While you might not know how or who your blood reaches, know that your blood will arrive somewhere with someone who desperately needs it to live,” states Jill.

Photo Source: Chicago Tribune

Jill undergoes ongoing screenings every three months and to this day has no evidence of cancer. While doctors can’t describe how or why the cancer is all gone, Jill credits her faith, a huge dose of luck, and a blood donors’ generosity for living to tell her tale and inspiring us all to be blood donors.

In the U.S., 62% of the population is eligible to give blood but only 3% do. Are you ready to give the gift of life? Visit redcrossblood.org to find a blood donation appointment opening near you.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager, Connie Esparza

Giving Blood: David’s Story

“We have a shared humanity, and some other person in a desperate situation is going to need an anonymous blood donor to make it possible for them to regain their health. If it’s a very small thing you can do that can have an enormous effect on someone else’s life, it’s incumbent on you to do so.”
-David Singer

March 2019 was first time David Singer gave blood. It was not his last.

Since then, David has donated more than two gallons of blood, and is now a Power Red donor.

“I was shocked at how non-invasive and quick it was,” said David. “I realized if that’s all it is, and if this is a thing people really need, then why don’t I do it as much as is reasonably possible for me to do it? I found it to be a very minor inconvenience, for me to go spend a small amount of time doing something that can have such a big impact on someone else.”

David urges others to do the same, as there is a constant need for blood products – every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood.

“The need is there. Every one of us believes that should we end up in the hospital, there would be blood available for us if we need it. Those are not reserves we have a limitless supply of. We all need to pitch in and do this.”

As for the time it takes to give blood? David says he barely notices he is there, before his appointment is done and he is on his way.

“It isn’t painful, it doesn’t take a long time. You go in, you fill out a few forms, you lie down and are on your phone for a few minutes and it’s over,” David said. “Everybody should get in the habit of spending 20 minutes every six weeks doing something that takes less time than shopping for groceries, and that has a big result.”

You are needed. To join David as a blood donor, visit redcrossblood.org and set up an appointment at a location near you. Thank you to David and all blood donors!

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Service and Scholarships

“It’s a good way to let your school connect with your community, letting people come in and see what your school’s all about. Also, it teaches students how to reach out and be active in their community and give back; these are things everyone should know how to do, and it helps you know how to do that.”
-Lainey Campbell

The American Red Cross High School Scholarship Program gives high school students the opportunity to help others, while helping the students as they move on to higher education. The scholarship program is available for high schools that host at least one Red Cross blood drive during the year.

For 17 years, Marty Green has helped successfully run this program at East Peoria High School. The school coordinates five blood drives every year, primarily thanks to the efforts of the students who are involved in the program.

“My role is purely supplemental. If they need something, I get it for them, but other than that, it’s completely driven by students,” says Green. “They come to me, I don’t go to them.”

The larger number of units of blood a school collects, the larger the amount of scholarships are awarded to participating students.

Lainey Campbell played an integral role in the East Peoria High School program the past few years, and received a scholarship for her efforts after graduating earlier this year. She is now using that scholarship to help pay for college.

“It’s very helpful, because college is expensive, so it’s very nice,” she says.

Perhaps more than the financial benefit, Campbell says the life skills she learned while coordinating blood drives and interacting with the community were very helpful for her. She encourages other high school students to get involved at their schools.

“For people who want to work on community service but also want help with funding for college, it’s a great program for that and it really rewards you – it rewards you for doing something outside your comfort zone. A lot of schools like to push leadership, teaching students to give back to their community. If you’re looking for that, it’s a great way to do it.”
-Lainey Campbell

Green, who is retiring after this year, recalls how Campbell and other students have answered the call to take charge of this program during his time being involved with it.

“Each year, a different student steps up to be the leader. They’ll come to me and say, ‘Mr. Green, I’d really like to run this,'” he says. “At the beginning, it was some work to get things going – now, it runs itself. I am fully confident that when I leave, it’s going to keep the momentum.”

Campbell echoes those sentiments, saying other students helped her, even while she was leading the program. She received support from previous student leaders, her fellow school band members and her friends along the way. She says, “I had a lot of support from my friends. I would send them the (blood drive) flyer and ask if they would post it on their Snapchat story or Instagram, and they did.”

Campbell also recalls the positive interaction with Red Cross staff, the day of the first blood drive she hosted. In addition, seeing so many people come in to give blood that day left a lasting effect on her.

“Everyone from the Red Cross I worked with that day was wonderful, they were all so nice and they explained it all to me,” she says. “It was my first experience seeing a community come together for a good deed, giving back to the community.”

By participating in the American Red Cross High School Scholarship Program, your high school can help build a stronger community. Click here to learn more, and to find out how your school can get involved!

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Latina Blood Donor Giving the Gift of Time and Life

Intrigued by blood donation when a mobile donation site came to her place of employment when she worked in downtown Chicago, Tina signed up to give blood and instantly became a loyal donor. Nine gallons and 10 years later, like clockwork, Tina takes time every 8 weeks or so to selflessly give the gift of life. “It costs absolutely nothing but a little bit of your time,” states Tina. “And it gives the gift of more time on earth for someone who needs blood to live.”

Tina hopes her daughters, Anahi and Gia, and generations to come, follow in her footsteps.

Tina has never had a close loved one who has needed blood and doesn’t look for praise or recognition, her reasoning, and decision to be a blood donor, is a simple one, “The more I learned about how blood and platelet donations help others, the more inspired I became to be a recurring donor. Blood saves lives – something money can’t buy. You really don’t know how your simple act of kindness will change someone’s life and it requires so very little of you.”

Tina’s selfless giving and impact is a widespread one. As a Hispanic blood donor, Tina is making a powerful contribution to many patients in need. African American and Latino populations have a higher frequency of type O blood than other ethnicities which can treat a broader cross-section of patients. Accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease all count on blood donations to battle illness and injury.

Tina’s giving inspired her husband so much so that he is now a bone marrow donor.

After doing further research, Tina decided to be a platelet donor and drives almost an hour on the weekends to do a two-hour platelet donation. Platelets are a key clotting component which need to be transfused within just five days after a donation and are often needed by cancer patients. Tina’s wish is that her platelet donations allow a cancer patient to enjoy and share more time with their loved ones.

“Share your health, and maybe even your lunch hour, go that extra mile for someone you don’t know – you really don’t know how your simple act of kindness will change someone’s life.”

–Tina Rocha Diaz, North Riverside, IL

In the U.S., 62% of the population is eligible to give blood but only 3% do. Are you ready to give the gift of time — and life? Visit redcrossblood.org to find a blood donation appointment opening near you.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager, Connie Esparza

A New Lease on Life: Terry’s Story

Terry Kenney has common variable immunodeficiency, a disorder that impairs her immune system. Blood donations are playing a big role in significantly improving Terry’s health.

Learn more about her story and how you can give blood, in this short video.

World Blood Donor Day: Gary’s Story

When you hear about the need for blood, what do you think about?

United States Air Force Major Gary Novak (Retired) thinks about the times he cared for wounded soldiers, while flying thousands of feet in the air and having no time to wait for administering lifesaving blood.

Major Novak completed several tours as a Critical Care Flight Nurse for the Air Force Nurse Corps. His dedication and talents helped keep injured service members alive, as did the blood kept on board the aircraft.

We always made sure we took blood with us. A lot of the patients, we had to give so much blood to keep them alive. I saw such a need for that and, because of that, I just feel it’s my duty now to give blood.”
-Major Gary Novak

Major Novak went on to a career as a nurse and continued to see the need for blood on a daily basis. He regularly donates blood, and recently did so at the Danyel Pitts blood drive in Springfield.

He says, “You just never know. The blood you give may save somebody’s life that you know and love. It’s always good to help out where you can.”

Thank you, Major Novak for your brave and selfless service to our country, and for giving the gift of lifesaving blood!

If you would like to give blood, please visit redcrossblood.org.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Giving Blood for the First Time

“I had never donated blood before. I was a little nervous, but I feel good, now.”
-Nahum Rabin

24-year-old Nahum Rabin is a Springfield, Illinois resident and recently gave blood for the first time at a local American Red Cross blood drive. His friend had suggested giving blood, after doing so numerous times herself.

“She was just telling me about donating blood; she’s done it a few times in the past,” said Rabin. “After she told me about it, I realized it does help people and it is something good to do, to give back to the community. I decided to do it.”

When asked if he would consider a repeat visit to give blood in the future, here was Rabin’s reply:

“For sure, I would definitely do it again, especially if it could help somebody. It felt like I was only in there for 10 minutes, tops. I’m young, I have enough blood. It’s always good to help somebody.”

Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. If you have never donated blood before, here are some resources for you, and a look at what to expect when you go to donate.

Visit redcrossblood.org to make an appointment at a blood drive or blood collection facility near you. Thank you to Nahum and all who give the gift of lifesaving blood!

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Inspirando a los latinos a donar sangre que salva vidas

Inspirando a los latinos a donar sangre que salva vidas

Para las hermanas Cynthia e Irma Torres, su dedicación a la donación de sangre nació por amor y en memoria de su padre Luis, quien falleció de linfoma en 2013.

Nacidas y criadas en La Villita, un vibrante barrio mexicano-estadounidense en Chicago conocido como La Villita, entre una familia y comunidad muy unida, ambas hermanas sostienen el significado de comunidad y atienden a la necesidad cuando esta se presenta. Este fue uno de los valores familiares fundamentales que ambos padres les inculcaron: ustedes se unen para servir a los necesitados. Desde 2013, ambas hermanas responden a la necesidad donando sangre.

“Después de mi primera donación, realmente sentí que estaba haciendo una diferencia y solo me hizo querer seguir ayudando a los demás. Gracias a las muchas personas que donaron antes que yo, mi padre pudo recibir lo que necesitaba en su momento de necesidad”, explicó Cynthia. “Busco continuamente campañas de donación de sangre que estén cerca de casa y programo tiempo libre en el trabajo para asistir. Mi padre era un hombre desinteresado que siempre estaba disponible para familiares y amigos en su momento de necesidad. Él sin duda apoyaría y animaría a mi hermana y a mí a donar tan a menudo como podamos, especialmente porque los latinos no donan sangre de forma rutinaria”.

Los hispanos son la parte de más rápido crecimiento de la población de los Estados Unidos, sin embargo, solo un pequeño porcentaje de hispanos dona sangre. Las poblaciones afroamericanas y latinas tienen una mayor frecuencia de sangre tipo O que otras etnias que pueden tratar una representativa más amplia de pacientes.

“Los grupos minoritarios no son donantes de sangre de rutina como podríamos serlo, y puede ser algo tan simple como el miedo a lo desconocido. Si podemos inspirar a los estudiantes latinos de secundaria y universitarios a donar, generar conciencia y llevar este mensaje a sus vecindarios, el proceso sería menos desalentador”, afirmó Irma. “Donar sangre es como votar por mí, es mi deber proporcionar sangre a los muchos que la necesitan”.

Irma y Cynthia en su donación de sangre más reciente muestran con orgullo sus botellas de agua de la Cruz Roja.

El legado de su padre incluye un hijo, cinco nietos y preciados recuerdos de risas, familia y unidad. Tanto Cynthia como Irma están comprometidas a seguir siendo donantes de sangre en memoria de su padre durante todo el tiempo que puedan y desean inspirar a sus familiares y amigos a hacer lo mismo.

Es importante saber que, como donante de sangre hispano, realiza una poderosa contribución a muchos pacientes que lo necesitan. Víctimas de accidentes y quemaduras, pacientes de cirugía cardíaca y trasplante de órganos, y aquellos que reciben tratamiento para la leucemia, el cáncer o la enfermedad de células falciformes cuentan con donaciones de sangre para combatir enfermedades y lesiones.

En este Día Mundial del Donante de Sangre, la Cruz Roja de Illinois extiende su más profunda gratitud a todos los donantes de sangre que desinteresadamente dan el regalo de la vida y alientan a las personas de todas las razas y etnias a donar sangre para ayudar a garantizar que el producto sanguíneo correcto esté disponible para aquellos wue lo necesitan. Las donaciones de sangre disminuyen a fines de la primavera y principios del verano, especialmente durante las semanas de vacaciones, ¡pero la necesidad de transfusiones de sangre y plaquetas no se toma un descanso de verano!

Visite redcrossblood.org para encontrar una cita de donación de sangre abierta cerca de usted.

Escrito por la Gerente de Comunicaciones de la Región de Illinois de la Cruz Roja, Connie Esparza