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Blood donations still needed over holidays

Blood centers rely donations especially during holiday season. | Sun-Times Medifile

Blood centers rely on donations, especially during the holiday season. | Sun-Times Media file

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Updated: January 6, 2014 6:23AM

Heartland Blood Centers is asking healthy members of the community to remember those who will spend the holiday season in the hospital by taking an hour out of their day to donate blood.

Heartland is an independent, not-for-profit blood center serving 49 hospitals in a 12-county region in Illinois and Indiana. Volunteer blood donors are needed every day to provide patients the life-saving blood transfusions they need to make their surgery or treatment possible, according to a release from Heartland.

Blood transfusions are a critical and necessary part of treatment for patients with numerous life-threatening conditions, including cancer patients of all ages, the release said.

Ethan Reiss, 12, of Somonauk, is living proof that blood transfusions save lives — in his case not once, but twice. Ethan was first diagnosed with cancer at age 4. Through chemotherapy treatment, radiation therapy and blood transfusions, he went into remission. His family was devastated when, two years later, the cancer returned. Once again, Ethan endured chemotherapy, radiation, and received blood transfusions to replace the blood cells that were destroyed as part of his treatment. Ethan received more than 150 blood transfusions while battling cancer.

Patty Reiss, Ethan’s mother, recalls the toll the chemo and radiation had on her son.

“They would give him a blood transfusion, and it was like giving him life,” she said. “He would perk up, and color would instantly come back into his face. He was full of energy and full of life again, all thanks to the wonderful, giving blood donors.”

Besides red cells and platelets, Ethan received numerous plasma transfusions. Plasma is crucial not only to cancer patients but also for patients suffering from a host of life-threatening conditions including hemophilia, shock or trauma, immune deficiencies, and other blood disorders. Plasma is also used in cardiac surgery, organ transplants, burn treatment and to prevent hemolytic diseases in newborns.

Special need

While Heartland has reported a need for donors of all blood types for plasma donation, those with AB blood are especially needed. AB blood donors are called universal plasma donors. Their plasma can be safely transfused to patients of all blood types without a transfusion reaction. Plasma is collected by a process called apheresis. It is a simple, safe, automated process that uses state-of-the-art technology to collect the plasma, according to the release.

Dennis Mestrich, president and CEO of Heartland Blood Centers, said there is an increased need for plasma donors.

“There are patients, like Ethan, that require plasma products to survive,” he said. “Remember during this busy holiday season to take the time to donate blood. Patients need blood 365 days a year, even on Christmas day. We count on our community members to give the ‘gift of life’ to have the blood needed for these critically ill patients.”

There are plenty of opportunities to donate blood this holiday season at a Heartland center or mobile blood drive, the release said. Making a blood donation in the days leading up to or immediately following a holiday helps ensure an adequate supply for those in need, it said.

“Every three seconds, someone in our community needs blood,” the release said. “By giving blood, donors have the unique opportunity to save lives. Donating blood is a quick, easy and safe way to provide patients with the gift of life.”

All donors receive free mini-medical exams on-site and information about their temperature, pulse rate, blood pressure and hemoglobin level.

Businesses, schools, religious, civic and fraternal organizations partner with Heartland to host blood drives. In addition, Heartland has 17 donor centers open six days a week.

Visit for a Heartland donor center or community blood drive near you. Blood donors are recognized and rewarded for their blood donations with Heartland’s Warm Hearts Club, an online redemption center.

To be a blood donor, individuals must be at least 17 years old, or 16 with written parental permission; weigh at least 110 pounds; be symptom-free of cold, flu and allergies; and be in general good health.

Donors who have traveled outside the United States within the past 12 months should contact Heartland at 1-800-7TO-GIVE to determine eligibility.

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