In a recent presentation to members the of Bradley Sunrise Rotary Club, Youngblood praised the consistency of Cleveland area residents in responding to the nonprofit’s steady calls for community support.
“This community is the most giving community in the area,” Youngblood said.
Blood Assurance’s donation center in Cleveland routinely receives so many blood donations that local supplies sometimes can be used to support neighboring hospitals like those in Chattanooga and Hamilton County where demand constantly exceeds supply, Youngblood explained.
Blood Assurance was founded in Chattanooga in 1972 after area hospitals had experienced a shortage of donated blood for people who needed blood transfusions due to accidents and other health problems.
Youngblood said what originally started to provide blood to four Chattanooga hospitals later grew into a nonprofit organization that today sends blood to some 100 hospitals throughout Tennessee and neighboring states.
He said the organization has “changed immensely” over the years, but what remains is people being able to receive “life-saving” blood because of the people who donate some of theirs.
The issue of blood donation is one that became especially personal to him when one of his daughters was once diagnosed with cancer, he explained.
One day, his daughter lay in a hospital bed with a hemoglobin blood count of 4.2. The average number for most healthy individuals is 14, Youngblood noted.
After his daughter received a blood transfusion, he began to notice a difference in her.
Though his daughter has long since recovered from her cancer, he said the memory remains fresh in his mind.
“I watched an individual just come back to life,” Youngblood said. “To see what your willingness to donate can do ... is just special.”
He also shared several facts about blood donation.
One in seven patients at a hospital will need a blood transfusion while the are there, he said. In addition, one pint of blood — the typical amount a person donating blood gives at one time — can be used to help three people.
Youngblood said a variety of people end up needing blood — not just accident victims. Many patients with cancer and other life-threatening conditions need blood. Blood transfusions are also used in many surgeries.
The blood is distributed to hospitals that are generally close to the donation locations and can be stored for up to 42 days. If blood stored in one location is not needed, it is transferred to another facility before it “expires.”
Youngblood urged his audience to consider donating blood at the Cleveland Blood Assurance location, which can be found at 2855 Keith Street N.W. While all blood types are accepted, he said hospitals are especially in need of O Negative blood because it can be used to help people of any blood type.
Fielding questions about what the donation process is like, he described it as a “fairly easy” one that takes less than an hour. Anyone who donates must be at least 17 years of age, or 16 with parental consent, and weigh at least 110 pounds.
There are certain health conditions that might prevent Blood Assurance from being able to accept blood, and having traveled to certain countries can also affect a person’s ability to donate. More information can be found online at www.bloodassurance.org.
As CEO, Youngblood has focused much of his time on donation numbers; however, it has been the personal stories he has witnessed or heard of that continue to spur on his enthusiasm for sharing the importance of donating blood.
When he first went to work at Blood Assurance, he decided to spend a day with a LifeForce Air Medical Service crew to see how blood transfusions were used. At a Chattanooga hospital, he visited a neonatal intensive care unit and saw a baby he said he will never forget.
“There was a baby the size of my hand with a bag of blood that was bigger than the baby,” Youngblood said. “That baby lived because someone gave.”
Prior to Youngblood’s speech, Rotarians recognized one of their own as she was named a Paul Harris Fellow.
Becoming a Paul Harris Fellow is an honor that is given to an individual who donates $1,000 or more to the Rotary International Foundation. That individual can either keep the honor for themselves or have someone else named a Paul Harris Fellow.
Rotarian Sally Poston chose to recognize fellow Rotarian Laura Record for something she did to help a total stranger. She donated a kidney to a man she did not know.
While browsing the website Facebook, she learned of a man in California named James Rivera who was in need of a kidney because his had failed years prior. The man was undergoing dialysis for hours each day, and he had been on the organ transplant registry for about seven years. Record decided to help by seeing if her kidney would be a match for his. It was.
Poston said Record was a “perfect example” of a Rotarian who takes the motto “Service Above Self” to heart.
As Record accepted her plaque, she thanked her fellow Rotarians. However, with tears starting to fill her eyes, she said she had already received the most important thank-you imaginable.
After she and Rivera both underwent their surgeries, she saw the father regain newfound energy to play with his three young daughters.