Don’t assume you can’t donate blood

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

“You can’t do that!”

He heard it more than once, from more than one well-wishing, but uninformed friend and acquaintance.

Cleveland City Councilman Kevin Conwell represents Ward 9, including Glenville and part of University Circle, north of Euclid Avenue. Honored in Washington as National Father of the Year, Conwell has served on City Council since 2001.

Conwell was a frequent blood donor, repeatedly donating since 2004. “I would donate as often as I could,” said Conwell. “We often held blood drives right in the lobby of city hall, that made it easy for us to donate.”

Then Conwell was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2013. With quick detection of the cancer, and treatment at the Cleveland Clinic, Conwell kicked the disease and has been cancer-free for a number of years.

“When I talked about donating again, friends would repeatedly tell me, ‘You can’t donate blood after receiving chemotherapy. There’s no way.’”

Then Conway got a phone call from the American Red Cross, asking if they could schedule a blood donation for him.

“You don’t want my blood,” he said. “I’ve had chemo treatments for colon cancer.”

“Are you still receiving chemo treatments?” the operator asked.

“No, I’ve been done with those for a couple years,” Conway replied.

“Well, good then. Let me make you an appointment. You are clear to donate,” explained the operator.

And he did. And he continues to donate.

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“I tell everyone I talk to at City Council that ‘Yes, you can donate after colon cancer.’ They are usually surprised.”

_ _ _ _ _

It’s a common misconception that certain infections, afflictions or diseases will disqualify you from donating. But don’t assume. There’s an easy way to find out for sure.

Call the Red Cross Donor Suitability line at 1-866-236-3276. Tell them any health concerns you have, and a trained professional will be able to tell you whether you can donate today or if maybe you need to wait a certain amount of time before you donate.

There’s a severe shortage of blood and platelets this year. With the severe winter weather we experienced, many blood drives had to be canceled. Even before that, there was a great demand for blood following many of the national disasters late last year.

Make the call. Only about 40 percent of the population can donate, and merely 10 percent of them actually do.

Make an appointment to give blood or platelets by downloading the free Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Editor’s note: Councilman Conwell’s story has been shared on the national Red Cross website, with the hope of reaching a wider audience with his message.  You can access the story here. 

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