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Giving the gift of life through blood donation

Hospital employee Angela Eaton donates blood with her son, Thomas, at a blood drive at Akron Children's Hospital.

Hospital employee Angela Eaton donates blood with her son, Thomas, at a blood drive at Akron Children’s Hospital.

When Angela Eaton was 9 years old, her mother was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. Throughout the years, she required many blood transfusions and two kidney transplants.

As Eaton grew up, she knew she wanted to help her mom and others like her in any way possible. As soon as she was eligible, she went to a blood drive, accompanied by her mother, to donate.

Thomas was nervous to donate blood for the first time.

Thomas was nervous to donate blood for the first time.

Unfortunately, Eaton was unable to donate due to certain exclusion requirements at the time about living with someone on hemodialysis.

“That was a crushing blow. I was really excited to donate,” she said.

A year later, after her mom received her second kidney transplant, Eaton attempted to donate again, with her mother by her side. This time, she was successful.

“It was reassuring to have my mom with me,” Eaton said. “The needle was just like the needles my mom had for kidney dialysis. It made donating easier; really put it in perspective.”

This year, Eaton was joined by her son, Thomas, who recently turned 17. He donated for the first time in honor of his grandma, who passed away 13 years ago.

“I’m nervous, I don’t like needles,” Thomas said before donating. “But I feel better knowing I’m giving to someone who needs it.”

Braving the needle runs in the family as Eaton is also not fond of the poke.

“The needle is intimidating,” she said. “But it’s insignificant when you compare it to what the people who need the blood might be going through.”

Thomas was comforted by one of the Red Cross nurses while another nurse stuck him with the needle.

Thomas was comforted by one of the Red Cross nurses while another nurse stuck him with the needle.

Eaton and her son donated blood during a drive at Akron Children’s, which helps the hospital as well as other patients. If the hospital reaches certain collection goals during its drives, the American Red Cross will sell blood to the hospital at a discounted price.

“Giving blood is also a great way to give back to the community,” said employee involvement coordinator Carolyn B. Hofmann. “Only 5 percent of people who are healthy enough to donate actually give blood. There is a tremendous need.”
It’s a need that increases in the summer.

“Donations may decrease due to people taking vacations or having difficulty attending blood drives while their children are home for the summer,” said Melinda Spoerke, Blood Bank Senior Technologist at Akron Children’s. “It can be a challenge to keep the blood supply at minimum inventory. Last summer, the shortage was so concerning that physicians were advised to not to schedule elective surgeries that may require blood.”

Spoerke, a regular donor, stressed the importance of donating, and encouraging friends and family to donate.

"I feel great, like 100 bucks minus a pint of blood!"

“I feel like 100 bucks minus a pint of blood!”

There are regular blood drives at the Akron and Beeghly campuses. Recently, The American Red Cross honored the hospital and blood donors with the “Going the Extra Mile” award for hosting 14 annual blood drives.

But if you’re worried about that needle, Thomas encourages you to look beyond the small jab you’ll feel.

“It was amazing,” he said immediately after donating. “I feel like 100 bucks minus a pint of blood.”

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