(CHICAGO, IL) – Matthew Sharp makes an effort to give blood every three months. The Glenn Ellyn resident has Type O negative blood – only 9 percent of people in the United States have his blood type. O negative donors like Sharp are universal donors as their blood can be given to people of all blood types.
“It’s an hour out of my day and saves a couple lives,” he said.
Sharp and hundreds of Chicago area residents of all blood types rolled up a sleeve at the ABC 7 Great Chicago Blood Drive Jan. 20. Braving cold temperatures, donors gave blood at Union Station’s Great Hall and the Drake Hotel in Oak Brook. A combined 621 units were collected between both locations in the largest single-day blood drive in the greater Chicago region.
This event comes at a crucial time since blood donations tend to decline in the winter months. Inclement weather and seasonal illnesses can keep eligible donors from giving, creating a greater need for donations during the winter.
As one pint can save up to three lives, many gave blood to help those in need, while others wanted to be an example to family members.
“I started donating in college…my daughter knew I was coming today,” said Takyrica Kokoszka of Oak Park.
Gov. Bruce Rauner also stopped by Union Station to thank blood donors, Red Cross volunteers and biomedical staff, and even donated a pint of blood.
Phlebotomist Robin Langenfeld came from the Peoria biomedical team to assure proper tracking of blood by placing bar code labels on donor bags. From there blood is processed, tested and stored by the Red Cross until it is ready to be shipped to hospitals.
The annual blood drive event was launched in 2015 during the 100th anniversary of the Red Cross in Chicago. The Red Cross and ABC 7 partnered this year with Amtrak, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Fresenius Kabi, iHeartMedia Chicago, Clear Channel Outdoor, Univision and Potbelly Sandwiches.
Each day, the Red Cross needs 14,000 blood donations to meet the needs of patients at approximately 2,600 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country. To help ensure patients have the blood products they need this winter, eligible donors can make an appointment using the Blood Donor App, by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), or by visiting www.redcrossblood.org.
Story by Nick Lagen, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois Public Affairs Volunteer
Photos by Bill Biederman, Danny Diaz, and Gerry Holmes, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois Public Affairs Volunteers
For more photos of the ABC 7 Great Chicago Blood Drive: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chicagoredcross/albums/72157663623651856/with/23891944734/