Two Strangers, 53 Pounds of Blood and a Half a Million Babies
Read how two State Farm employees donate to those who need it most.
It's estimated that 1 pint of blood can save up to 3 lives. By that math, Michael's donations could have potentially saved 144 lives!
Six gallons is a lot of blood. Especially if it's rare, baby-saving blood.
"It adds up to about 53 pounds," says Michael Comens. That's about the size of your average 6-year-old. Michael's speaking from experience. That's how much he's donated to local Red Cross blood drives.
Kevin Swaim's no stranger to blood drives either. "I've been to so many, I even know what kind of treats each location serves."
Kevin and Michael don't know each other, but they have a lot in common. They both work at State Farm® (in the same department, mind you) and every two months or so, a bunch of people call them up and ask for their blood.
Now there's a reason for this, and it's not because they both somehow ended up on some weirdo vampire mailing list!
Kevin and Michael both have an extremely rare blood type. They're both Type O-negative, which means they're universal donors. And they're also free of CMV, a common virus that's harmless to most people, but can cause severe infections for patients with weak immune systems, especially newborn babies. Only 2% of people worldwide are both Type O- and CMV-negative, and this combination makes them the exact type needed for baby blood transfusions.
- A baby is born in the US every 8 seconds. That adds up to over 3.7 million babies a year.
- About 15% of those babies need to spend time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. That’s over 561,000 babies each year who need specialized care, including blood transfusions.
Turning an O-negative into a positive.
Every day, the American Red Cross sends pediatric-specific blood like Kevin's and Michael's to hospitals across the country through a program called Heroes for Babies.
"I had no idea what my blood type was before I first donated," said Kevin. Shortly after his first donation, he was contacted by the Red Cross.
"Once they told me that my blood was rare and was being used to help babies, I wanted to help out as much as I could."
Michael's story was similar. "I knew I was a universal donor, but I'd never heard about CMV or the Heroes for Babies program."
Now Kevin and Michael are both proud members of Heroes for Babies, and both donate as often as they can. Their efforts are definitely appreciated.
"We are deeply grateful for the support from partners like State Farm who have enabled the American Red Cross to continue to deliver on our lifesaving mission nationwide and help patients during these unprecedented times. The need for blood does not stop during a pandemic. Thanks in part to the many State Farm employees who have generously rolled-up a sleeve, including as part of our Heroes for Babies program, the Red Cross has been able to provide patients young and old the blood products they need,” said Kamenna Lee, vice president, biomedical marketing at the American Red Cross.
Donating is an APPsolute breeze
The pin Michael received after donating his sixth gallon of blood.
"You have to wait about 60 days between donations," said Michael. "But it's easy to find places to donate."
Finding a location is easy, even during the pandemic, thanks to a special app available from the Red Cross.
"It's been important for me to keep donating blood through the quarantines and lockdowns," said Kevin. "It's the least I can do for these kids who need it."
The Red Cross app not only allows Kevin and Michael to find places to donate, they can see exactly where their blood is being used.
"It's pretty cool to see all the different places your blood is out there making a difference," Kevin said, having used the app to track his donations to pediatric hospitals across the country.
Michael agreed, and encouraged others to give blood. "They wouldn't ask for it if they didn't need it, plus you might find out just how valuable your blood really is."