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

Denesha Carter Mitchell: A Sickle Cell Patient and Advocate

Denesha Carter Mitchell: A Sickle Cell Patient and Advocate

Denesha was four years old when her parents discovered that she had sickle cell disease. It wasn’t until the birth of her brother that it was uncovered that both had sickle cell disease. Despite near death crises and obstacles with the medical teams who have been challenged with how to care for her, Denesha remains optimistic and draws on her faith for strength to keep going, not only for herself and her family, but also for the countless number of sickle cell patients who are hesitant to let others know their pain.

“Through the years, even when the pain has felt like glass being jack hammered throughout my body, I’ve stayed strong. I’ve always told myself that I have a purpose in life and there’s a reason why sickle cell landed with me. I’ve resolved that my purpose is to be a voice,” states Denesha. “When I’ve had to stand up for myself when medical treatments have not worked and stood my ground for alternative opinions and courses of treatment, I realized, if I can be strong enough to be an advocate for myself – I can be a voice for others.”

Advocacy for early testing, compassionate medical care, and awareness and motivation for the Black community to be blood donors are all main components to Denesha’s mission in life. “It is the blood transfusions from generous donors, that get me and my brother through the toughest moments and allow us to live. During a near death episode two years ago, I resolved to not only be a voice, but also educate my community and inspire them to donate. Their drops of blood are life for those of us with sickle cell. Blood donors make a difference for our life span,” said Denesha.

Blood transfusion helps patients by increasing the number of normal red blood cells in the body, helping to deliver oxygen throughout the body and unblock blood vessels. A single sickle cell patient can require multiple blood transfusions each year throughout their life to treat complications from this disease.

Denesha, middle, pictured with her parents, siblings and nephews.

“I’m so grateful to have a strong family support network, which includes 11 brothers and sisters and their families. My parents, who check up on me daily, my husband who has stood by me for the past 20 years, my children, and so many other family members and friends who step up to help and be my hands and feet when I’ve been wheelchair bound. I realize that others may not have that type of team rallying for them – I wish to be that support person for someone who doesn’t have it,” said Denesha.

Denesha’s husband has played an integral part of her support system.

Denesha works for the Cook County Forest Preserve and has visions to fully cement an organization that not only supports sickle cell patients, but also commemorates those that lost their life to sickle cell disease and motivates the Black community to be recurring blood donors.

The blood that runs through our veins can ease the suffering of others — and patients battling sickle cell disease need your help now. Please schedule a blood donation appointment today by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

Written by Illinois 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

You May be the Lifeline for Patients with Sickle Cell Disease

You May be the Lifeline for Patients with Sickle Cell Disease

The need for blood is constant. We’ve all heard this repeatedly over the years and in crisis shortage levels earlier this year. However, for sickle cell disease patients, blood transfusions are oftentimes part of their routine on a weekly or even daily basis. Now imagine being told that matching blood was not available.

For Cook County Commissioner Donna Miller, this scenario is one she’s been managing alongside her sister who suffers from sickle cell disease for decades. And there have been many instances where her sister was hospitalized waiting for that matching blood supply to help her live. Cook County Commissioner Miller endeavors to address this need so that sickle cell patients don’t have to face this scenario…hopefully ever.

“It has to start at birth with testing to learn whether or not we are sickle cell disease carriers. And we have to talk about this disease and raise awareness at all levels—our communities, our doctors’ offices, our families,” stated Cook County Commissioner Miller. “My sister is 40 years old, and she grew up thinking she would never live to see her adult years. She grew up not knowing anyone else who was living with sickle cell—she felt isolated. For her and all other sickle disease patients I am driven to raise awareness and encourage the African American community to show their support by donating blood.”

Pictured are Cook County Commissioner Miller and her sister, Imani Scott.

The Red Cross is committed to maintaining a diverse blood supply to ensure the right product is available at the right time. Red blood cell transfusions are higher among hospitalized Black patients, yet only about 4% of blood donors are Black. Because some patients are more likely to find a compatible blood match from a donor of the same race or ethnic group, it’s important for individuals of all races and ethnicities to give.

“I invite my African American Community to join the group of recurring blood donors. Your gift gives life,” stated Cook County Commissioner Miller.

Donna Miller is a Cook County commissioner, representing the board’s 6th district.

Let us know you are attending the blood drive. Book your appointment here, https://rdcrss.org/3tgnKnX.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager, Connie Esparza

Inspiring Latinos to Donate Lifesaving Blood

Inspiring Latinos to Donate Lifesaving Blood

For sisters Cynthia and Irma Torres, their dedication to blood donation was born out of love and in memory of their father Luis, who passed away from lymphoma in 2013.

Born and raised in Little Village, a vibrant Mexican-American neighborhood in Chicago known as La Villita, amongst a tight-knit family and community, both sisters embrace and sustain the meaning of community and attending to a need when this presents itself. This was one of the fundamental family values both parents instilled in them—you come together to serve those in need. Since 2013, both sisters have been answering the need by donating blood.

“After my first donation, I truly felt like I was making a difference and it only made me want to continue to help others. Thanks to the many people that donated before me, my father was able to receive what he needed in his time of need,” explained Cynthia. “I continually look for blood drives that are close to home and will schedule time-off of work to attend. My father was a self-less man who was always available for family and friends in their time of need. He would certainly support and encourage my sister and I to donate as often as we can especially because Latinos don’t routinely donate blood.”

Hispanics are the fastest growing part of the United States population, yet only a small percentage of Hispanics donate blood. 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.

“Minority groups are not routine blood donors as we could be, and it may be something as simple as fear of the unknown. If we can inspire Latino high school and college students to donate, raise awareness, and bring this message home to their neighborhoods, the process would be made less daunting,” stated Irma. “Donating blood is like voting for me, it’s my duty to provide blood for the many who need it.”

Irma and Cynthia at their most recent blood donation proudly display their Red Cross water bottles.

Their father’s legacy includes a son, five grandchildren, and cherished memories of laughter, family, and unity. Both Cynthia and Irma are committed to remain active blood donors in memory of their father for as long as they can and wish to inspire their family and friends to do the same.

It’s important to know that as a Hispanic blood donor, you make a powerful contribution to many patients in need. 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.

On this World Blood Donor Day, the Red Cross of Illinois extends our deepest gratitude to all blood donors who selflessly give the gift of life and encourage people of all races and ethnicities to donate blood to help ensure the right blood product is available to those in need. Blood donations decline in late spring and early summer –especially during holiday weeks – but the need for blood and platelet transfusions doesn’t take a summer break!

Please visit redcrossblood.org to find a blood donation appointment opening near you.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager, Connie Esparza

Employee Spotlight: Shaquetta Booker

I love my job, because I love the fact we are saving lives. I definitely enjoy being on the front line. I like to serve people and make people feel great.”
-Shaquetta Booker

Shaquetta Booker is a team supervisor at the American Red Cross blood donation center in Bloomington, Illinois.

Shaquetta started working for the Red Cross five years ago, and it was family that led her to go into this career. Her mother passed away due to cancer and needed blood during her battle with the disease.

Shaquetta learned how the Red Cross works to help provide that blood, while caring for her mother. She wanted to be a part of this process and help others.

“There is definitely a need for blood every day. Someone needs blood all the time. I love that people come out to help others,” she says. “When we are out here helping people, that’s a great thing to do. If that’s something you are willing to do, it doesn’t take much, it doesn’t cost anything and it’s definitely something that is needed.”

When she is not working, Shaquetta enjoys spending time with her children and family in Decatur. Thank you, Shaquetta for being an important part of our biomedical team!

Please visit redcrossblood.org to find a blood donation appointment opening near you.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Jackie & Manooch: Former News Photographers Now a Driving Force Behind Biomedical Delivery

“I can’t think of any place in the city where we haven’t done a live shot.”

Manooch Shadnia points to the familiar places among the city streets of Chicago as friend and colleague Jackie Denn navigates the Red Cross car through traffic.

“I may not remember the stories….” He laughs and trails off his thought. After nearly 40 years each as news photographers, the people behind the camera at Chicago’s ABC-7 station, they’ve both covered nearly every type of story imaginable in the Windy City including many late-nights covering various elections over the years. Between assignments and deadlines, they also struck up a life-long friendship along the way.

Jackie started working at a small TV station at Michigan State as a studio camera person before coming to ABC-7 in 1980. Born in Iran, Manooch came to America in 1977 and joined the staff at ABC-7 in 1982. For decades they were reliable and creative members of the well-known news team bringing coverage of current events and moments of history to local news viewers. Then in 2019, they both decided it was time to hang up the microphone and put the camera away one last time.

After a fond farewell from their team, they are fully embracing their lives in retirement. Even with their days now filled with hobbies, family time and fun, Jackie and Manooch still managed to find just enough space in their new lives to give a little bit back.

Jackie got started right away volunteering with the Coast Guard Auxiliary, Lakeview Food Pantry,  and even as an election judge. But after many years at ABC-7 she couldn’t ignore the partnership and incredible event created through the ABC-7 Great Chicago Blood Drive with the Red Cross. In its 8 years, thousands of units of blood have been collected. So it seemed like the perfect place to start as a Red Cross volunteer; helping with the blood drive and bringing Manooch along as well.

“I thought the Red Cross seemed like a great organization to volunteer for,” Jackie said.

Manooch stepped out of the news van and onto a bicycle for his retirement riding many miles a day as a “long hauler,” and enjoying other sports like snow shoeing- thanks to a new set of snowshoes gifted by Jackie. He also has a goal of running a marathon in a different state each month. Manooch has already crossed Louisiana, Illinois and Indiana off the list among others.

Volunteering at the Great Chicago Blood Drive wasn’t enough though, and soon Jackie realized there was more that needed to be done. She started volunteering as a Red Cross Biomedical Transportation Specialist, basically the drivers who take the blood products from the Red Cross to the hospitals that need them. After covering many health and medical stories over the years and getting familiar with the area hospitals, it sounded like the ideal fit.

It was.

Jackie quickly picked up the responsibilities of the volunteer role and was hitting the road each week. The shifts start in the morning picking up the blood in big, insulated boxes from the Greater Chicago headquarters, determining the route to the hospitals and hand delivering the boxes to the blood banks within them. Her role as a volunteer Biomedical Transportation Specialist plays a critical role in the process of getting donated blood to the people who need it.

“It’s a meaningful thing to do with my time,” she said.

Enjoying the experience and interactions with the other volunteers and hospital staff, she thought, “I think Manooch might like this.” She recruited her old work buddy to join her in the job, and they were reunited on the road once again. After Jackie showed Manooch the ropes a few times, they’re now covering the routes several days a week for the Greater Chicago chapter, enjoying the sights and sounds of the city and staying connected to the downtown area in the process.

“I’m proud to do this,” Manooch said. “When we arrive at the blood banks sometimes someone is waiting for that blood which means someone’s life depends on it.”

Even with separate scheduled days, occasionally they’ll tag along on each other’s routes and reminisce about the news days behind them, and the open road ahead of them.

Find your fit at the American Red Cross. Take a look at open volunteer positions here.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Holly Baker