Testing rides and saving lives at the Red Cross auto show blood drive

NICKAMANDAThis year’s harsh winter cancelled many blood drives, but the American Red Cross Bloodmobile rolled up at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show, which helped to keep up with the constant need for blood.

The Red Cross Bloodmobile, a mobile blood donation vehicle, served as an opportunity for spectators at the auto show at McCormick Place to shift gears from the buzz of high energy crowds and polished cars, to make a pit stop to donate blood and help save lives. Donors ranged from enthusiastic first timers to veteran frequent donors. The annual blood drive at the Chicago Auto Show is the largest in the region for the Red Cross.

Attendees lined up to donate blood, sharing smiles and laughter with family and friends. The spirit of sharing continued as donors told their stories, explaining what motivates them to give blood.

“I do it because it will save a life,” said first-time blood donor Nick Umgelder.

Umgelder and girlfriend, Amanda Rubino, said they were inspired by the lives they can help save. Amanda, a nurse, said seeing her patients reminds her that each donation makes a difference.

One experience that has stuck with Amanda was when she directly transferred blood to a patient of hers who had been diagnosed with cancer. Her patient needed blood transfusions that matched her rare blood type after each of her chemotherapy treatments. When Amanda, who also had the same rare blood type, directly transferred her blood to her patient, it was the last time the patient needed a transfusion after chemotherapy.  Amanda’s blood donation helped in her patient’s recovery so much that the patient gave her a locket as a gift of appreciation.

“We still keep in touch, and she is about to graduate college,” said Amanda.

PETERMARYMAZIUKThe opportunity to donate blood at the Auto Show began with the generous work of Dennis Buckley. In 1999, Buckley, director of marketing for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, proposed the idea for a blood mobile as a concept vehicle on the floor of the Auto Show. Although others were initially unresponsive to the idea, the Auto Show blood drive is now one of the largest open community blood drive programs in the Chicagoland area. Buckley was a Red Cross Heroes Breakfast honoree and was presented with the Blood Services award posthumously.

Mary and Peter Maziuk’s personal experiences also remind them of the importance of blood donations.

Mary was diagnosed with Leukemia when she was two years old. Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that uses donated blood transfusions as treatment. Although Mary is not able to donate blood, her husband Peter said his wife’s stories motivated him to begin donating blood again.

“It’s a great ability–saving lives,” said Peter.

The Red Cross blood drive at the 2014 Auto Show was a fun way to come together for a good cause, but there’s always an opportunity to give blood. Call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients.

Story by Raquel Silva. Photos by Diana Brokop