“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.”
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