It had been more than five years since he had donated blood, but it only took one phone call from the American Red Cross to motivate Cleveland Councilman Kevin Conwell to begin donating lifesaving platelets. Conwell battled and beat colon cancer several years ago. Prior to his cancer diagnosis, Conwell donated blood to the Red Cross about two to three times per year but believed it would be impossible to donate again. “Everywhere I would go people would tell me, ‘No councilman, you can’t give any more blood because you are a cancer survivor,’” recalls Conwell.
However, that wasn’t true after never being diagnosed with a blood cancer. And today, he donates at least once a month.
The C-word was a Call to Action
It didn’t take much prodding to motivate Conwell to donate platelets after learning they assist people undergoing cancer treatments. Platelets are tiny cells in your blood that form clots and stop bleeding. For millions of Americans, they are essential to surviving and fighting cancer, chronic diseases, and traumatic injuries.
“The Red Cross called me and said you have platelets and you’re AB,” Conwell recalls and then emphasized that his platelets could help people battling cancer and undergoing cancer treatments. ”When that C-word, cancer came up, and I’m a cancer survivor, I wanted to help even more to give back. I stopped, and I said schedule me and I’ll be there.”
Now Conwell donates platelets once or twice a month and is eager to share the message that other cancer survivors can roll up a sleeve and donate too, if they meet the eligibility requirements for giving. Knowing that his rare blood type was also in high demand added a greater sense of urgency and incentive to help. “(The) Red Cross is important to me. I’m educating people that you can give, cancer people especially and they want to give, but just don’t know [they can]!”
Conwell gladly welcomes the calm and quiet environment of the Red Cross Blood Donation Center, which provides a stark contrast to an office that receives over 60 phone calls a day. “If I am not listening to music I am watching documentaries, reviewing or writing sheet music, or I plan for work, because they can’t get to me and that’s cool!”
How to Help this March
During March is Red Cross Month, the Red Cross urges people to roll up a sleeve to help patients in need. Right now, platelets are particularly needed. Platelets must be transfused within just five days after donation – so there is a constant, often critical, need for new and current donors to give to keep up with hospital demand.
Eligible individuals can make an appointment by using the free Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
A blood donor card or driver’s license, or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), 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.
Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App.