By Emiley Murphy, American Red Cross Volunteer
All of us are faced with pivotal moments that transform us in unanticipated ways. But it is not the moments themselves that determine our outcome, it is what we choose to do with them that truly defines us. For local sports anchor and KFMB Sports Director Kyle Kraska, his moment was as unexpected as it was life-changing. On February 10, 2015, what began as a typical day quickly turned into a fight for his life. Ambushed while leaving his home, Kraska was shot six times before being spotted by a neighbor, an off-duty police officer who performed emergency care until paramedics arrived. In a rapid series of events, Kraska was taken to the hospital where he required 14 units of blood and multiple surgeries. Due to the quick response of first responders and hospital personnel, Kraska recovered and now, four years later, is using his story to make a difference in his community.
This year Kraska decided to take his personal journey one step further. By partnering with the American Red Cross and encouraging the people of San Diego to join him, the Celebration of Heroes Blood Drive was launched on February 14.
“The idea behind this blood drive came out of a tragedy that happened to me four years ago, I was shot six times in my driveway and if not for first responders, doctors, nurses, surgeons and blood donors, I would be dead,” Kraska said. “So without all of that, I wouldn’t be here so this blood drive is a way to give back to all those people, to pay it forward and to do something amazing for our community, which is to give blood.”
The winter months often bring a shortage of blood donations, which has caused the Red Cross to issue an emergency call for blood and platelets to prevent a blood shortage from continuing throughout winter and affecting patient care.
Blood transfusions are given to patients in all kinds of circumstances, including serious injuries, surgeries, childbirth, anemia, blood disorders and cancer treatments, to name a few. Each day the Red Cross must collect 13,000 pints of blood from across the country to meet the needs of patients. This makes a blood and platelet shortage during the colder months a crucial matter for the Red Cross and the hospitals they serve.
When asked about the Celebration of Heroes and the importance of events like it throughout the San Diego area, especially during a time of shortage, Kraska replied, “I know how important it [blood donation] is and I think we get busy with our personal lives and we don’t think about getting out there and donating blood. People may forget how critical it is because remember, you don’t need the blood until you’re in really bad shape. To put all that together, to make this a community effort and to see the success that we’re having - I am so inspired by and so grateful to the community.”
Along with the blood drive on February 14, Kraska spoke at two area high schools to educate youth about the importance of blood donations and blood drives were also held at those locations. Patricia Elwood, Community Relations Director of the KFMB Stations, spoke about her involvement with the event.
"We wanted to make it into a teaching moment for our young people. Kyle’s shown a video and told his story and has talked about the importance of blood donation. Hopefully, it's a teaching moment for young kids to get to them early and to recognize that there is an ongoing need for blood."
When asked about what he ultimately hoped to accomplish with this year’s and subsequent Celebration of Heroes blood drives, Kraska responded, “Obviously, save lives, give blood… I want people to be aware of this issue… and maybe they’ll give again in two months or whatever time they can give blood. And also, I hope they’ll walk away with a real, true appreciation for what first responders, doctors and nurses do in our lives every day.”
As part of the Celebration of Heroes blood drive multiple events were staged throughout the community, including donation events at Kraska’s news station, KFMB, two high schools and the main event at Dave & Buster’s in Mission Valley. Altogether, 310 units of blood were donated with another 102 donations pledged through an online Sleeves Up campaign that will continue to run until the end of February.
For more information about blood donation or to make an appointment, download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. 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 donors can now 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, prior to arriving at the blood drive. To get started and learn more, visit redcrossblood.org/RapidPass and follow the instructions on the site.