Commentary: Being a blood donor offers gift of Holiday Hope

As we close out 2019, I want to take a moment to thank all of the wonderful people who took time to donate blood in order to help numerous patients throughout Delmarva and beyond.

Each of you deserves our deepest appreciation for giving a priceless gift that provides hope to patients and their families. Through your selfless generosity, you have infused hope into patients by giving them a chance to heal and overcome and, in some cases, a chance to survive a trauma by literally restoring life.

Your gift then extends beyond the patients by giving them better health, better quality of life and perhaps more time with their families and friends — bringing Holiday Hope to even more people.

Richard C. Thomas

As generous as our community has been this year, we’re not done yet. We are in the midst of our annual Holiday Hope campaign that serves to remind people that the need for blood does not take a holiday. Many of you reading this op-ed will likely enjoy some much deserved time off from work during this holiday season. I ask you to consider setting aside just a little time to come see us so you too can bring Holiday Hope to patients and their families.

Whole blood donors like Amy Roe, of Newark, understand the constant need for blood. Amy donates one pint of her O negative blood every 56 days, which amounts to the maximum six donations per year. O negative is the universal whole blood type critical to emergency rooms and trauma centers. To say thank you to Amy hardly scratches the surface for the six gallons of blood she has donated since high school. Each pint of blood has the potential to save three lives. She has brought hope to so many patients and their loved ones through her consistent generosity.

We also have our platelet donors who are our most frequent donors. People like Robert Moley, of Wilmington, who sits for a platelet donation every two weeks, and that is why Bob (A positive) is our all-time leader with 417 donations. Platelets are vital to the care of cancer and burn patients, not to mention traumas and scheduled surgeries. They are the biggest challenge because they only have a shelf life of five days, and people like Bob Moley ensure we get the platelets we need to save lives every day.

Then, there are our double red cell donors like Richard Stegmaier, of Salisbury, Maryland, who give twice as many red blood cells in one donation. Richard (O positive) has done this 40 times. This type of donation can be done every 112 days – twice the recovery rate for whole blood. To sum up, it’s a convenient way to give for both you and the blood bank, and you save twice as many lives in one appointment.

And I would be remiss if I did not mention our plasma donors like Amy Degnars, of Newark. Amy read one of our marketing outreach emails and understood that her AB negative blood type was ideal for plasma. AB blood types are the universal donors for plasma similar to how O negative donors are universal red cell donors. Amy made the switch and has donated plasma three times.

I could go on about our wonderful donors, but suffice it to say that it takes all blood types to keep our mission going.

The best way to sum up their good work is to briefly mention some people they have helped throughout Delmarva.

Let me start with one of my favorite blood recipient stories, that of Maverick Ford Painter, of Earleville, Maryland. Maverick was the only survivor from a set of triplets born on Sept. 3, 2018, weighing just 1 pound, 14 ounces., and blood transfusions helped save his life through surgeries and several blood tests. His parents, Jason Painter and Shane Simmons, have gone on to host or support a number of blood drives in Cecil County that have figuratively given back a hundredfold the blood that Maverick needed.

Speaking of babies, former blood recipient Elizabeth “Lee Lee” Cauffman, of Delmar, Delaware, and her husband, Cody, welcomed their baby girl into this world earlier this year. Back in the summer of 2010, though, Elizabeth needed several transfusions after a car accident in which she nearly bled to death. Blood donors brought her so much hope that she is now enjoying life with her young family.

I could go on and on, but the last recipient I’ll mention is Riley Jadick, of Landenberg, Pennsylvania. Despite all the setbacks that come with childhood cancer, Riley, 8, has never hesitated to partner with us to get the word out about the constant need for blood for a number of events. Her parents, Robin and Tim Jadick, held a successful blood drive in February, and they’ll do it again soon this winter. Riley was also there with us for the ribbon cutting we held for the bloodmobile we obtained with the wonderful help of Discover Bank, Longwood Foundation, and the Delaware Community Foundation to augment mobile operations. This little girl is one of our biggest advocates and has frequently expressed her thanks for the hope that the donors of the 18 units of blood and 15 units of platelets she has received have given to her and her family.

These and countless others are the reason our loyal donors continue to do what they do, knowing they have brought Holiday Hope to so many. Our mission is only possible through the generosity of our blood donors, financial contributors, community advocates, dedicated employees, and many loyal volunteers. Just ask any of them and I am sure they will tell you how truly rewarding it is to give; knowing they brought so much hope into the world by their simple act of giving.

Therefore, I ask you to please consider giving blood. I promise that you will make the holiday season happy for someone out there.

To learn more about our Holiday Hope campaign, please visit www.delmarvablood.org/hope.

Richard Thomas was named Blood Bank of Delaware’s senior executive director in November 2018. Prior to that, he was Vice President of Technical Services. Mr. Thomas has more than 35 years of clinical laboratory experience at hospitals, physician office laboratories, clinics, reference laboratories, and blood centers in New York, Florida, Virginia and Delmarva.