Blood Recipients Depend on the Kindness of Strangers for Life

Blood Recipients Depend on the Kindness of Strangers for Life

By Shelley Hoss

The ConnectOC Blog is a place for sharing insight, information and examples of how Orange County residents, donors and nonprofits are working to build a brighter, stronger, more vibrant community.  We welcome you to share your thoughts by commenting below.

If you met Katherine Taylor you would see a vibrant and creative muralist and fine artist. 

What you wouldn’t see is the rare disorder that causes her impaired immune system to produce fewer antibodies than she needs to fight off bacteria and viruses.

The only antidote available to keep the 48-year-old Aliso Viejo resident alive is an intravenous infusion of a blood product extracted from the plasma of more than a thousand blood donors. With no cure available, she’ll receive this treatment for the rest of her life, forever depending upon anonymous blood donors. 

And that’s where the American Red Cross of Orange County comes in. 

“It’s through our generous  donors that people like Katherine receive the transfusions that are critical to their ongoing treatment,” said Tony Briggs, external communications manager biomedical field marketing and communications for the American Red Cross, Southern California Blood Services Region.

The critical importance of blood donations gained recognition just last week, during the annual World Red Cross Day on May 8. “A lot of people want to donate when they hear about an emergency or mass causality, but we need to make sure we have blood on the shelves at all times for people who need it every day,” Briggs said. 

He points out that blood and blood products, such as platelets and red blood cells, are required every two seconds in the United States. And platelets — critical for cancer patients — only have a shelf life of five days, making the need for a fresh supply a constant challenge. 

Every year, the Red Cross struggles to keep up with demand especially during the summer months. 

Briggs says donations drop 10-20 percent on average during June, July and August, and that’s when the need for blood increases usually — largely due to students on summer break. A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood — about as much as 100 people donate.

Even if regular donors gave just once more this summer, Briggs says the Red Cross could make up for the shortfall. 

The regional organization holds blood drives across the county, giving locals the opportunity to donate near their homes or workplaces. One regular site is St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton. Their last drive attracted 35 generous blood donors. And although their donations will aid more than 100 people, the need in Orange County is far greater. 

“If people knew how safe and easy it is to donate blood, I think we’d have more donors,” said Mina Firoozi, Clinical Laboratory Scientist, ASCP at St. Jude’s Medical Center in Fullerton.

And more donors mean that people like Taylor could receive help. 

Like another artist she admires, Jim Henson, Taylor hopes “to leave the world a bit better than when she got here.” She is well on her way, by bringing attention to the great need for more — and more frequent — blood donors.

To make an appointment to give blood, download the Red Cross Blood donor app, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS. 

To learn more about local nonprofits working to support the health and well being of our community visit Nonprofit Central.

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Shelley Hoss is president of the Orange County Community Foundation. She can be reached at shoss@oc-cf.org

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