Connor Reed has a great deal to be thankful for this holiday season -- a lot more than your typical college freshman. This year, Connor is giving thanks for the lifesaving gift of blood.
In January, Connor was diagnosed with Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM), a rare autoimmune disease. The disease seemingly came out of nowhere and turned Connor from a healthy high school senior into a patient in the Intensive Care Unit.
The disease left Connor fully paralyzed from the head down for more than two weeks, and he was in the ICU on life support for 25 days. After various treatments did not improve his status, the doctors decided to try something different: plasmapheresis.
A machine removed Connor’s blood plasma to reduce antibody levels and replaced it with donated plasma. He had five procedures over a two-week period, and his condition finally started to improve. Connor’s successful plasmapheresis treatment not only played a significant part in his recovery, but coincidentally, it was a gift he had spent many hours encouraging others to give.
Before being diagnosed with ADEM, Connor helped organize blood drives at his high school. In 2014, he received a scholarship from the Bob’s High School Heroes Scholarship program for his work hosting those drives.
Had it not been for the American Red Cross and the individuals who donated the blood products Connor received, he says there may have been much more permanent damage or he may not be alive.
“I can promise you firsthand - after receiving blood and plasma donations following a life-threatening autoimmune disease, those who donate are the reason I’m able to walk and breathe without assistance today,” said Connor.
This holiday season, the Red Cross asks individuals to give the lifesaving gift of blood. Donating blood or platelets is a gift that offers hope to patients in need -- patients like Connor.
The holidays are typically a challenging time of year to collect blood. Even for regular donors, holiday travel and activities often conflict with donating. However, patients don’t get a holiday from needing blood and platelets. Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs a lifesaving transfusion.
For those considering rolling up a sleeve this holiday season, Connor wants to remind current and potential blood donors: “You help to save up to three lives with every donation, and although you may never know who that blood goes to help, you will be making a difference.”
Today, Connor continues to recover and is a freshman at the University of Connecticut’s School of Business. His life is just as busy as it was before his health crisis; he is a member of the Sports Business Association, the Sky Diving Club and is even looking into becoming a United States Marine Corps officer.
Blood can be safely donated every 56 days. Platelets can be given every seven days – up to 24 times a year. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in most states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.
For more information or to schedule an appointment to donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org. Donors can also use the Red Cross Blood Donor App, which is free and available for download now. It can be found in app stores by searching for American Red Cross, visiting redcross.org/apps or redcrossblood.org/bloodapp, or by texting BLOODAPP to 90999 for a direct link to download. Message and data rates for texting may apply.