CPN | January is National Blood Donor Month!

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January is National Blood Donor Month!


Three days before Christmas, Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston issued an urgent social campaign to help restore their shortage of 0-negative blood.  With the holidays, circulating viruses, and cold winter weather,  blood donations dip every year around this time, so it is no coincidence that January is National Blood Donation month.

Like most people, moms Kerry Millette and Rebecca Kuczarski hadn’t thought much about donating blood until their children became seriously ill.  Milette explains, “ I would hear about blood drives and I even tried donating once but I was sent away due to a recent cold.”  When her daughter Kayla was diagnosed with a rare immune disorder, Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), she learned first-hand the importance of blood banking.  “Before Kayla got sick I always thought blood was needed for surgeries or people in accidents. Kayla often needed blood products during her treatment.  She received chemotherapy which leads to blood transfusions and part of her protocol was IVIG therapy which is made from the plasma of more than 1000 donors.”  

blood-donationAccording to the American Red Cross, approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the U.S.  People requiring blood range from one time recipients due to surgery or accident, to patients who frequently need blood due to illnesses like cancer, sickle cell disease and other blood disorders.  It is estimated that 4.5 million Americans would die each year without life-saving blood transfusions.

Rebecca Kuczarski has a similar story.  “ I started donating after Sophia was diagnosed.”  Kuczarski”s daughter Sophia required a blood transfusion during her treatment for Leukemia.  Despite advancements in blood processing and screening, many people still have some fear of receiving blood products from an unknown source.

“My husband, Eric, wanted to do a direct donation of his blood for Sophia, but we learned direct donation would not be best for her treatment.  At that point we decided as a family that we just needed to donate anyway, for other people we didn’t know who might need blood.”  

Some friends and families want to donate blood for a particular person  because it provides a tangible way to help.  Kuczarski recalls, “Years before Sophia got sick, my mom had cancer. She had a large tumor on her spine that needed to be removed but the hospital was delaying the surgery due to a lack of blood products.  We contacted the media and held a drive at a local church, that resulted in an overflow of blood to the hospital.  I was thankful that my mom’s surgery didn’t have to be delayed, and it also meant a lot to us that many other families would be helped by our efforts.  It is the responsibility of all of us, because you never know when you will be the one in need.”

Both Kayla Millette and Sophia Kuczarski died from their illnesses, yet both moms are still active donors.  The Milletts host a community blood drive in Kayla’s honor every year.  “There were days where I could just tell Kayla needed a transfusion.  We were spending a lot of time in the hospital and good days were really celebrated.  As soon as she received the blood she would perk up and could be a kid again. Those transfusions gave us valuable time where she was feeling well and able to do the things she loved. I want to be sure no child ever has to wait for blood to feel better.”

Kuczarski personally donates blood every 8-12 weeks.  “It is a quick process.  Donating blood takes about a half hour. Platelets takes longer, about three hours, but you get your blood back and you can go every week! I have now got my friends involved too so I usually have a buddy to hang out with and the blood bank also gives out various gift cards for your time.” Since 2012, Rebecca has donated roughly 15 pints of blood which means it is possible that she has directly helped 45 people. That’s pretty great.

Please visit http://www.redcrossblood.org/ to find a blood drive near you!