This January, the American Red Cross celebrates National Blood Donor Month and recognizes the lifesaving contribution of blood and platelet donors. Crew member Pete K. shares his story:
Like many of you, my first time donating blood was when a friend asked me to participate in a blood drive. It was easy and painless, and I remember leaving feeling like I’d made some small contribution to the community.
In the years since I’ve become more sensitive to the challenges faced by the Red Cross and other blood collection agencies. The critical need for blood products (whole blood, plasma, platelets) is satisfied by the relatively few who are willing to help through regular donations. The Red Cross reports that while almost 40% of the U.S. population are eligible to donate, less than 10% of that population actually do each year. Contrast that with the fact that every day 36,000 units of red blood cells and 7,000 units of platelets are needed in the U.S., and you have a pretty dire situation. Initially, the main driver for my donations was simply that it’s the right thing to do. But, soon it turned personal.
Why it’s so important to me
My wife, Tammie, went through a particularly tough battle with breast cancer and that struggle really made us appreciate the volunteers that donate blood products. Tammie underwent extensive and intense chemotherapy and radiation treatment – both of which can damage cells in your bone marrow, and are used to manufacture blood and platelets. The effects of these treatments are cumulative, and she became progressively weaker as her regimen progressed. Low blood count leaves patients vulnerable to a variety of infections and even bleeding, so blood donations are critical for recovery. Chances are you have a loved one, or know of someone, with a similar story. I’m happy to say that now, my wife is two years clear of any reoccurrence.
In addition to donating blood, I also donate platelets. I had friends that were doing it, and read that these type of donations are often specifically matched to an individual cancer patient. It felt like an even greater opportunity to help someone in need. Donating platelets is a fairly involved process, and more time consuming, so I typically only manage 4 or 5 of those per year. In between, I participate in blood drives at my church and Vanguard. Can you believe that in 2017, Vanguard crew donated 2,000 pints of blood? Pretty amazing!
Paying it forward
I think the reality is that many of us at some point in our lives will have a similar need, whether due to illness, accident, or scheduled surgery, so I look at donating as “paying it forward” in advance. Vanguard has a culture of crew giving back through community service programs, Volunteer Time Off days, and charitable giving (which includes generous employer matching), all centered on our commitment to what we call the “3 C’s”: clients, crew & community.
I’m grateful to work at a place where my values align with my company’s culture. My wife is pretty grateful too.