Giving blood in honor of a life

A Wapakoneta mother can’t remember how many units of blood her son went through after he was diagnosed with cancer.

What she can remember vividly is the time nurses told her they may not have the blood they needed for him and may have to order it and wait for it to arrive.

Judy Strauser is hoping a blood drive dedicated in memory of her son, Jason Strauser, can help others in their time of need.

She’s starting by asking her son’s classmates, who graduated this spring, to come out and give blood Tuesday before they head off to college in the fall.

“I want to get them on a lifetime schedule of giving blood,” Strauser said.

“I want to get people giving blood and educate everyone about the constant need for it,” she said.

On posters for Tuesday’s drive from noon to 6 p.m. at St. Paul United Church of Christ, in Wapakoneta, there is a description of Jason’s need for blood while he was undergoing treatment for brain tumors. Jason’s family is sponsoring the drive, hoping they can get the community to come out and show its support.

“He was a normal, active 10-year-old when he was diagnosed with a very large brain tumor,” Strauser said.

“He was in and out of treatments most of the seven years that he battled cancer,” she said. “Our son was only 17-years-old when he passed away on Memorial Day 2011.”

During chemotherapy and radiation, Jason received many, many units of blood products on an almost weekly basis, an average of at least two units a months for seven years.

“Pediatric oncology patients are poked and prodded with needles more times than their parents care to count,” Strauser said.

Jason always encouraged others to donate blood at American Red Cross Blood Drives and now his mom is hoping others will show that same compassion and come out and donate at a drive in his memory.

“It’s only one little poke compared to the numerous pokes that Jason received,” Strauser said.

Not only is the need for blood constant, but it’s especially high now, with the Indiana-Ohio Blood Services Region listing its supply at a critical level this week. The region supports patients at 60 hospitals across the area, with approximately 500 units of blood needed each day.

American Red Cross blood collections have been significantly disrupted by recent severe storms, with shortfalls of approximately 1,700 units of blood and platelets. Adding to that shortage are those caused by fewer donations from vacationing families and schools and colleges being out of session during summer months. Blood supplies were already at emergency levels with June blood donations coming in 50,000 fewer than expected, prompting the Red Cross to issue a national blood appeal to build the blood inventory back up after the storms.

Every two seconds, a patient in the United States needs a blood transfusion and because blood is a perishable product, red blood cells have a shelf life of 42 days and platelets just five days, so they must be replenished constantly.

One unit of blood is expected to save three lives and every two seconds in the U.S. a patient needs a blood transfusion, according to the American Red Cross.

“Thousands of blood donations are needed each and every day to meet the needs of accident victims, cancer patients and children with blood disorders,” Strauser said.

“These patients and others rely on lifesaving blood products during their treatment and those whose lives may be touched by your generosity will be forever grateful,” she said.

Appointments for Tuesday’s blood drive are being scheduled every 15 minutes with a total of 162 spots available, but just 25 of those left.

Volunteers are helping run the drive with others donating homemade cookies, celery and carrots. Local pizza places also are making donations for those giving blood, while the American Red Cross provides drinks.

Blood donors need to be at least 17 years old, or 16 with parental consent, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in generally good health. Some individuals may be eligible to participate in the Red Cross’s double red cell program, allowing them to donate two units of red cells during one appointment.

It is recommended that those donating blood have eaten well the day before and the day of a drive, are well hydrated and get plenty of rest. It is recommended that donors stay away from caffeine.

Strauser is planning to continue holding blood drives every year on Jason’s birthday, Jan. 17, and his half birthday, July 17. She has held other blood drives in the past in honor of him and other area children with cancer.

“This is my passion,” said Strauser, who started giving blood when she was 19-years-old, long before her son got sick.