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Summertime Leaves Red Cross In Urgent Need For Donors

Courtesy photo

The American Red Cross has issued an emergency appeal to help boost the blood supply following the Independence Day Holiday.

Blood and platelet donations often decline when schools are out of session and regular donors are on vacation.

Donors of all blood types are needed and those with O negative, B negative and A negative blood are especially encouraged to give. There’s a critical need for platelet donors as well.

Donor Leslee Freund knows all too well about the importance of giving blood.

When her son Landon was 20 months old, he was bleeding profusely due to a chronic illness called ulcerative colitis. Freund says Landon was in the hospital five weeks during and received 10 blood transfusions.

“If he wasn’t given that blood, I honestly believe that he wouldn’t have survived,” Freund says. “He definitely wouldn’t have healed in the way that he has healed. That’s a big reason why I continue to donate.”

Now 3 years old, Landon is a happy, smart, bouncing boy, who Freund says is amazing all the doctors.

Freund’s family travels to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City for Landon’s treatments, now every seven weeks instead of two.

Freund makes it a point to donate at the Red Cross Wichita Donor Center downtown. She says the donation process is quick and easy.

“It’s a breeze, honestly," she says. "You come in everybody smiles and greets you and you read your material, and get your little health assessment.”

After the blood donation, a donor will spend a few minutes in the canteen having cookies and a drink before heading back out.

“Overall, donating blood can take up to an hour,” says Cari Merrill, communications program manager for the American Red Cross. “The actual donation of blood flowing into the bag, about 10 minutes."

Merrill says donating platelets takes a little more time, typically between one to two hours.

Once donated, red blood cells can last for 42 days and platelets five days.

Donations have dipped this summer. Merrill says the Red Cross noticed a 10 percent decrease in collections in June and she says the Independence Day holiday falling in the middle of the week didn’t help.

“People are on vacation and companies weren’t having as many blood drives so we really want to encourage people if they can, come out and donate,” she says.

Freund began giving blood in high school and did so for a while but she says donating took on a whole new meaning when her son became ill.

She remembers watching Landon as he was receiving blood transfusions and being grateful to all the anonymous donors who, she says, had no idea that they were saving her little boy’s life.

“And so now, every single time I donate, I think about that," she says. "As I sat there giving my blood I thought, this is why I do this. It saved my son and it’s going to save someone else.”

To help increase awareness and blood collections, the American Red Cross is hosting "Rock 'N Roll Up Your Sleeve" from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, July 20 at the Wichita Donation Center, 707 N. Main.

You can also call 316-268-0835 or 1-800-733-2767 to make an appointment or schedule one online.

Carla Eckels is Director of Organizational Culture at KMUW. She produces and hosts the R&B and gospel show Soulsations and brings stories of race and culture to The Range with the monthly segment In the Mix. Carla was inducted into The Kansas African American Museum's Trailblazers Hall of Fame in 2020 for her work in broadcast/journalism.