Gift of blood gives life

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blood donations

UPDATED: 12/29/16, 10 p.m.

CENTRAL ILLINOIS – More than 500 people stopped what they were doing to give back with the gift of life during our second annual blood drive.

It’s in memory of Dave Benton and Robert Reese. We had a goal of 500 donors but you helped us beat that. We finished the drive with 516 donors, and counting. We had crews in Urbana, Springfield, Mattoon and Danville — communities coming together with a single goal — to save lives.

Even with a singular goal, everyone donated for different reasons. Some of you were first time donors.

“Something I always thought about doing but just never got around to it … It’s not that big a deal, if you’ve got the time, go ahead and do it,” says Ben Potter of Danville.

Others realized one pint can save up to three lives. “I just thought, well, this is one small step I can take,” says Guy McCoy of Springfield.

Some of you have given before and know just how important a donation can be.

“I’m just two shy of having 22 gallons … Last year my sister came down with breast cancer, the reason I donate is it saves lives, even though I couldn’t save hers, I know I’m saving others,” says David Myers of Mattoon.

Suzan Armstrong’s grandson battled cancer for six days after he was born. He didn’t make it, but blood donations helped.

“Every donation was appreciated because, you know, if it wasn’t for the donations he might not have even had the chance to last the six days that he did for us to get to visit him in the hospital,” says Armstrong.

Robert Reese’s daughter donates to honor her dad. She grew up watching him donate.

“You find yourself being sad a lot and it’s just a positive way to say, you know, I’m living up to things that he did, and things that he thought was important as well,” says Rachel Hall.

No matter the reason, donating is a small way to make a big difference. For all of you who took the time to do it, we can’t thank you enough.

Original: 12/28/16, 10 p.m.

CHAMPAIGN — The American Red Cross says every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood.

For some people in central Illinois, a blood donation meant the difference between life and death.

We caught up with blood donors and recipients, who shared their stories of loss and recovery.

Giving blood isn’t a chore for them. It’s a way of honoring loved ones, friends, and a cause they can believe in.

But for some, giving blood has a very real connection.

Mike Leon has been donating blood since 1999.
 
“For whatever reason I just felt like donating,” said Leon.
 
It was a “just because” motivation back then.
 
But six years later, it hit home.
 
“My son in law was diagnosed with cancer, so doing the aphresis donation just made it more personal for me,” said Leon.
 
Blood donations helped him fight for a long time.
 
“He passed away October of this year. He’s had five battles with cancer, and he survived them all except for the last one,” said Leon.
 
For Leon, giving blood is now a tribute, and “it will continue to be that way,” for his son-in-law, and for those whose lives have a chance to be saved from a blood transfusion.
 
That’s even if the chance is as small as 10%, as it was for one Champaign reverend diagnosed with stage four throat cancer.
 
“You never think you’re the one that’s going to need blood or have some sort of procedure. All of a sudden I was in that position,” said Reverend Keith Harris.
 
Even after his procedure, he was struggling to hang on.
 
“That first year really is a blur. I think every day was spent mostly trying to figure out how to survive and make it to the next day,” said Harris.
 
Blood donations were the reason he’s still here, able to stand behind the church podium and continue to do what he loves.
 
“Give services, preach, do teaching, all sorts of stuff. So there’s some things I can’t do, but I choose to focus on what I can do,” said Harris.
 
The American Red Cross said in 2016, nearly 19,000 lives were saved from whole blood units collected across four counties in central Illinois. Those include Macon, Sangamon, Champaign and Vermilion Counties.
 
More than 1,200 whole units have been collected in Champaign County alone.
 

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