Blood donations needed as cancer patients resume care after challenging year

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From The American Red Cross:

BINGHAMTON, New York – The American Red Cross and the American Cancer Society have teamed up this June to encourage people across the country to Give Blood to Give Time and help ensure loved ones have the strength and support they need as they undergo cancer treatment.

According to the American Cancer Society, many patient visits and procedures were forced to delay or cancel early in the pandemic to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19. With procedures resuming, blood donations are critical for cancer treatments. Unfortunately, the Red Cross is seeing fewer blood and platelet donors give as the nation begins to climb out of this pandemic. This downturn comes at a time when the Red Cross continues to see strong demand for blood products including platelets by hospitals, causing concern for the sufficiency of the blood supply this month and throughout the summer.

The Red Cross currently has an emergency need for eligible donors in the Southern Tier area to make an appointment now to give platelets to ensure critical patient needs are met. Platelets, the clotting portion of blood primarily given to cancer patients during treatment, must be transfused within five days of donation and, therefore, are always in great demand.

“Many cancer patients, especially those going through chemotherapy, will have a need for blood products during treatment,” said Dr. Baia Lasky, medical director for the Red Cross. “When someone donates blood or platelets, they may not only help prevent life-threatening bleeding that can cause stroke or relieve some symptoms, like shortness of breath and headaches, but also give patients and their families the time and hope they need to fight back.”

Some types of chemotherapy can damage bone marrow, reducing red blood cell and platelet production. Other times, the cancer itself or surgical procedures cause the need for blood products. About six blood products are needed every minute to help someone going through cancer treatment. Yet only 3% of people in the U.S. give blood. It is vital that more people donate blood and platelets regularly to meet that need.

To schedule a blood or platelet donation appointment, visit GiveBloodToGiveTime.org. As a special thank-you, those who come to donate through June 13 will receive a limited-edition Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last.

“The need for blood in cancer treatments is an important and untold story,” said Howard Byck, senior vice president of corporate and sports alliances, American Cancer Society. “The American Cancer Society is excited to be working with the Red Cross on Give Blood to Give Time. Through this partnership, we want people to know there are multiple ways they can help and make a meaningful difference in the lives of patients and their families.”

Cancer takes so much, but you can help

In August 2016, Myel Bowers-Smith received an unexpected and life-changing medical diagnosis. What she thought was an infection from a mosquito bite was actually stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer. The cancer was a very rare and aggressive breast carcinoma that spread from her breast to her lymph nodes on the left side of her body. “I just knew something wasn’t right with my body,” she said.

Bowers-Smith was determined to keep a positive attitude even when her treatments left her feeling sick for days at a time, unable to eat and extremely fatigued. “I received five different chemotherapy treatments and steroids. I also received multiple plasma and platelet transfusions. I would be in the hospital bed for hours receiving treatments,” she said.

After months of treatment, Bowers-Smith was told her cancer was in remission in February 2017. “I was more than excited because I survived. I won, and it was time to get my life back! This couldn’t defeat me,” she said.

Bowers-Smith recognizes the role of blood products in her recovery and now encourages others to give. “Everyone needs someone, and this is your time to help someone who needs your blood or platelets. Be a blessing,” she said. “Eligible donors, you have something good – which is your blood. A pint of blood can help save lives, and you never know if you or someone you love would need donated blood or platelet products.”

Health insights for donors

The Red Cross is testing blood, platelet and plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies through July 24. The test may indicate if the donor’s immune system has produced antibodies to this coronavirus, regardless of whether they developed symptoms. Testing may also identify the presence of antibodies developed after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. The Red Cross is not testing donors to diagnose illness, referred to as a diagnostic test. To protect the health and safety of Red Cross staff and donors, it is important that individuals who do not feel well or believe they may be ill with COVID-19 postpone donation.

At a time when health information has never been more important, the Red Cross is also screening all blood, platelet and plasma donations from self-identified African American donors for the sickle cell trait. This additional screening will provide Black donors with an additional health insight and help the Red Cross identify compatible blood types more quickly to help patients with sickle cell disease. Blood transfusion is an essential treatment for those with sickle cell disease, and blood donations from individuals of the same race, ethnicity and blood type have a unique ability to help patients fighting sickle cell disease.

Donors can expect to receive antibody test and sickle cell trait screening results, if applicable, within one to two weeks through the Red Cross Blood Donor App and the online donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org.

Blood drive safety

The Red Cross has updated its pandemic safety protocols in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Fully vaccinated individuals, including staff and donors, no longer need to wear masks or socially distance. Unvaccinated individuals continue to be required to wear masks and socially distance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive.

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including social distancing and face masks for

donors and staff – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive and are required to wear a face mask while at the drive, in alignment with state and federal guidance.

Upcoming blood donation opportunities:

Broome

Binghamton

6/2/2021: 12 p.m. – 5 p.m., American Legion 1645, 39 Louisa Street

6/10/2021: 12 p.m. – 5 p.m., Taste New York Building, 840 Upper Front St #2

6/10/2021: 1 p.m. – 6 p.m., Chenango Bridge UMC, 740 River Rd

Conklin

6/4/2021: 1 p.m. – 6 p.m., Conklin Volunteer Fire Department, 1034 Conklin Rd

Endicott

6/2/2021: 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., St. Anthony of Padua Parish, St Anthonys of Padua, 306 Odell Ave

6/2/2021: 12 p.m. – 4 p.m., Union Endicott High School, 1200 East Main Street

6/10/2021: 1 p.m. – 6 p.m., Sons of Italy Lodge 443, Sons of Italy Loge 443, 126 Odell Avenue

6/10/2021: 1:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m., Church of the Holy Family, 3600 Phyliss Street

Johnson City

6/4/2021: 11:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., American Red Cross, 365 Harry L Drive

6/11/2021: 8 a.m. – 1 p.m., Sarah Jane Memorial United Methodist Church, 308 Main Street

6/11/2021: 11:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., American Red Cross, 365 Harry L Drive

Port Crane

6/12/2021: 8 a.m. – 1 p.m., Sanitaria Springs Fire Company, NYS, 811 NY-7

Chenango

Greene

6/9/2021: 12:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., Church of the Immaculate Conception, 1180 State Highway 206

New Berlin

6/3/2021: 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., Broome Developmental Center, 12 School Street

Norwich

6/8/2021: 12 p.m. – 5 p.m., Norwich VFW Post 2782, 61-63 East Main Street

Cortland

6/8/2021: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., College Suites, 951 NY-13

Homer

6/5/2021: 8 a.m. – 1 p.m., First United Methodist Church, 16 Cayuga St.

Tioga

Owego

6/2/2021: 12 p.m. – 6 p.m., Owego Elks Club, Owego Elks Club, 223 Front Street

Tompkins

Ithaca

6/1/2021: 1 p.m. – 6 p.m., The Shops at Ithaca Mall, 40 Catherwood Rd

6/2/2021: 1 p.m. – 6 p.m., The Shops at Ithaca Mall, 40 Catherwood Rd

6/4/2021: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., The Shops at Ithaca Mall, 40 Catherwood Rd

6/9/2021: 1 p.m. – 6 p.m., The Shops at Ithaca Mall, 40 Catherwood Rd

6/10/2021: 12:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., The Shops at Ithaca Mall, 40 Catherwood Rd

6/10/2021: 1 p.m. – 6 p.m., Vineyard Church of Ithaca, 23 Cinema Drive

6/12/2021: 8 a.m. – 12 p.m., The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints, 114 Burleigh Dr

About blood donation Simply download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit  RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App.

About the American Red Cross

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

About the American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society is a global grassroots force of 1.5 million volunteers dedicated to saving lives, celebrating lives, and leading the fight for a world without cancer. From breakthrough research, to free lodging near treatment, a 24/7/365 live helpline, free rides to treatment, and convening powerful activists to create awareness and impact, the Society is the only organization attacking cancer from every angle. For more information go to www.cancer.org.

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