The Importance of Donated Blood Products: Ivy’s Story

“My son has received more products than I ever thought one person could take. That’s where my passion comes from, seeing him need it and where he would be without it – which would be, nowhere.”
-Ivy Ward

Ivy Ward has firsthand knowledge of the importance of donated blood products. Her nine-year-old son, Finn was diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia in July 2021.

“I’ve always been a blood donor. And so that’s really when I realized what exactly it means to be a donor and where our donations go to, and how much each individual needs, especially when it comes to leukemia,” Ivy said. “My son has received platelets and blood consistently the past two years, so that is really my driving factor.”

Despite being a longtime blood donor, Ivy did not think about cancer patients needing so much blood before her son was diagnosed and started receiving treatments. It was an eye-opening experience for her to see how donated blood products can help people with cancer, and in many other situations as well.

“I didn’t think about the illnesses like cancer that would need blood, just because their hemoglobin is down or they need platelets or anything like that,” she said.

Platelets are a key clotting component of blood often needed by cancer patients. By giving platelets regularly, donors can help patients fight cancer and recover from other life-threatening illnesses and injuries. Platelets must be transfused within just five days after a donation is made, and that is why there is a constant need for new and current donors to give to keep up with hospital demand.

Ivy has made numerous trips from her hometown of Gibson City, Illinois to get her son treatments at a children’s hospital in Chicago – approximately a two-hour trip each way. It is a trip she is thankful to make, because of the critical help the treatments provide to her son. Ivy wants everyone to know the importance of donating blood, plasma and platelets.

“Without donated blood products, he wouldn’t be here today,” she says. “Just in the last two years, he received more than 25 blood products and he’s just one kid. The hospital floors are full of kids that need that blood and would otherwise not be able to survive without it. And that’s not even counting emergency services that use it.”

Visit to make an appointment to donate.

“We see so many kids who need blood products and he’s still a kid who needs them, and we just appreciate everything the Red Cross does.”
-Ivy Ward

Written by Illinois Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

September Nott: Hall of Fame Platelet Donor

“It’s really important to give if you can do it. I don’t have a lot of money to give, so I just give myself.”
-September Nott

September Nott started giving blood in 2012, shortly after going with her son to his blood donation appointment. September was notified that she has a high platelet count in the days following her initial blood donation and she has been donating platelets, ever since.

Ten years later, September has made 187 donations, for a total of 490 units. She comes in every two weeks, and says she just enjoys being able to give back.

“There are so many people who need blood and platelets and plasma. It’s a part of my life that I can give selflessly to. It’s easy to do, and I love it,” she says.

September lost both of her parents and a close friend to cancer. She says, she likes to donate platelets in honor of people she knows who are battling cancer. Often times, September will bring a photo of those individuals with her to the donation center, as she makes her donation.

Beyond her gift of life, September found a unique way to help protect and connect the platelet donor community during the pandemic — donating roughly 1,800 hand-sewn masks to platelet donors and platelet collection staff members.

On Monday, Dec. 12, 2022 in Peoria, September was inducted into the Fresenius-Kabi Donation Hall of Fame for her efforts.

Congratulations, September and thank you for your contributions! Every 15 seconds a patient in the U.S. receives platelets, and nearly 50% of all donated platelets go to cancer patients. Click here to make an appointment to donate platelets.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Celebrating Black History Month: Employee Spotlight on Darren Thompson

Darren Thompson has worked for the American Red Cross of Illinois for 25 years.

Darren’s brother gave him the inspiration to start working for the organization in 1996; he worked for the Red Cross and sparked Darren’s interest in coming on board. Darren started as a technician and, most recently, has been a manufacturing supervisor for the past 17 years. He enjoys being a part of the mission of the Red Cross and has played a big role in the impact Blood Services has made on the community, specifically Peoria and the Central Illinois Chapter.

Darren oversees a team of three staff members and six drivers on his shift and credits his time working in other roles for the effectiveness he is able to have as a supervisor. “Coming from the floor, you have seen every aspect of the job, so that helps a lot,” he said.

The Red Cross provides hospitals with lifesaving blood products 24 hours a day, 365 days a year including: red blood cells, platelets, plasma, whole blood and blood products for research. Darren oversees the distribution of blood products on a daily basis. There can be a fluctuation in the amount of these products coming through his area and the COVID-19 pandemic has made a significant impact on that supply. As Darren says, “We go as the inventory goes.”

Darren and his team inspect the products as they come through their area and make sure they are packed and delivered in a timely fashion to hospitals who need them. It is a job Darren loves and one that gives him a great sense of satisfaction.

“I’ve seen it so many times, where we have products that need to get to people – lifesaving products. You just feel like you’re making some kind of difference. I always visualize myself being at that hospital and needing these products, so it kind of helps you understand the importance of making sure customers get what they need.”

In his spare time, Darren is a deacon at his church, volunteers his time and loves to go fishing. You might find him reeling in a catfish if you are ever at a lake in the Peoria area.

Thank you, Darren for 25 years of service to the Red Cross and for all you have done and continue to do to make a difference!

The American Red Cross continues to face a national blood crisis – its worst blood shortage in over a decade, posing a concerning risk to patient care. Doctors have been forced to make difficult decisions about who receives transfusions and who will need to wait until more products become available. Blood and platelet donations are critically needed to help prevent further delays in vital medical treatments. During this blood crisis, the Red Cross asks the country to roll up a sleeve to help ensure people in their communities receive the care they need. Make an appointment to give blood or platelets as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen