Kyle Bellin has been donating blood every three to six months for as long as he can remember. He knows his donation is needed and can help save a life.
“Just do it, why not? There is no reason not to. It’s quick and it’s easy,” he said.
Kyle joined hundreds of blood donors who rolled up a sleeve Jan. 21 at the American Red Cross 100th Anniversary Blood Drive at Union Station. The event was the start of a year-long celebration to mark a century of service of the Red Cross in Chicago. More than 430 units of blood were collected in one of the largest day-long blood drives during National Blood Donor Month.
The overwhelming turnout will help keep a steady supply of blood available, which can be challenging during the winter
months amid cold and flu season or cancelled appointments from inclement weather. The need for blood is great when you factor in more than 41,000 donations are needed every day to meet the demands of patients nationwide. Providing lifesaving blood and blood products to patients is a key component of the Red Cross mission to help people in times of emergency and disasters.
“If you believe in karma, it’s a good way to give back,” said blood donor John Pabich.
Lori Wade, whose daughter works with the Red Cross, encouraged people, “to give it a try. It’s worth the time.”
Jim Dee, who has donated blood around 20-30 times in the past, donated double red blood cells for the first time. There are about one billion red blood cells in two to three drops of blood and they are the most transfusable component. Patients who benefit most from this include those with chronic anemia, trauma and surgery patients, or those with blood disorders such as sickle cell.
“This feels like the right thing to do and it barely hurts,” Jim said. “It’s an easy thing to do for people who need it in desperate situations.”
Doug Gornowich, who also donated double red blood cells, agreed. “Someone has to do it. It’s (the donation) is a small part of your day that makes a great difference.”
Apart from double red blood cells, donors also came forward to donate platelets. Veronica Vasquez, a Red Cross Blood Services
staff member, was one of them. Platelets are obtained by drawing blood from the donor into an apheresis instrument, which separates the blood into its components, retains some of the platelets, and returns the remainder of the blood to the donor. Patients who benefit most from platelets include those undergoing cancer treatments, organ transplants and surgical procedures.
The common reason across all donors was they gave blood because they wanted to help someone. Many also understood the value of blood donations after watching a loved one need it.
Kiarra Hill, who donated on her birthday, had a friend who needed regular blood transfusions.
“Think about how many people you may be helping, including friends and family,” she said. “It doesn’t take long and you are saving so many lives.”
Apart from individual donors, the blood drive also saw support from organizations such as ‘Muslims for Life’ who have been partnering with the Red Cross for several years by sponsoring and coordinating blood drives at malls, colleges, mosques and churches. Also present were a number of volunteers from Fresenius Kabi, a company that supplies blood packs and medical equipment to the Red Cross to collect platelets and red blood cells.
“Blood donation is something that should come without asking for it. You should do it because you want to do it,” said Shaun Connelly, after finishing his donation and walking to the refreshment table.
The Red Cross has also launched the Sleeves Up virtual blood drive this month which is a new online tool that allows you to create a virtual blood drive and encourage colleagues, friends and family members to give blood or platelets, or make a financial donation – no matter where they are located across the country.
For more details about blood donations or to sign up for an upcoming blood drive, please visit American Red Cross Biomedical Services. We look forward to seeing you at the next blood drive.
For more photos of the American Red Cross 100th Anniversary Blood Drive go to: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chicagoredcross/sets/72157650418773425/
Written by: Amisha Sud, American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer