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Monday, June 15, 2020

Blood Donation Makes Me Feel Alive: A Dedicated Donor Shares his Special Relationship with the American Red Cross on World Blood Donor Day

A Message from the American Red Cross:

Sunday, June 14, was World Blood Donor Day, and the American Red Cross is especially grateful to the blood donors who help to ensure a diverse blood supply is available for patients battling cancer, sickle cell disease, those involved in car accidents or undergoing planned and unexpected surgeries. Patients in need across the United States depend on the generosity of blood donors to ensure their needs are met as we all navigate the uncertainties of COVID-19.

During this time, the Red Cross has an urgent need for blood and platelets. If you are healthy, feeling well and eligible to donate please help us ensure blood is available for patients in need by visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS to schedule an appointment to give.

Written by Jesse Saperstein 

Just as I was beginning high school I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism. Over the years I had been bullied and called names for being “different.” During my Junior year I became a blood donor. Giving blood made me feel brave and proud to help save lives, like I could finally be just like my peers. Growing up on the autism spectrum has made it difficult to connect and build relationships in my community. However, from the moment I entered my first blood drive and gave my first donation, a mutual friendship with the American Red Cross was established and has been constant for more than 20 years.

Every two months, I schedule an appointment to give blood or platelets to the Red Cross to help people in need. Donating blood and getting a chance to interact with others during this pandemic has given me a sense of normalcy and is helping to keep me going. It may sound weird, but it’s one of the few activities I can take part in now, in the same ways that I was able to before COVID-19. The only major difference is that I can further show my support for the autism community by sporting a puzzle-print face mask during my donation. Multi-colored puzzle pieces are a trademark symbol that represent the autism spectrum. 

Safely Maintaining a Passion for Blood Donation 
Donating blood is one of my passions and a generous act that provides a comfortable and peaceful setting when the world beyond its walls can be so loud and cruel. I feel like a champion and like I’m solving a problem every time I roll up my sleeve to give. I know that with each blood donation I make, I am helping to save more than one life. As a man living with Asperger’s, this is one of the few ways I feel like I am instantly making a difference and only takes as little as an hour from start to finish!

Coming together to help others in need has been empowering for me. I want others to share in this momentum and urge all eligible blood, platelet and plasma donors to join me in my efforts. Right now, the Red Cross has an urgent need for blood and not enough people in the U.S. volunteer to donate. During this pandemic, I am hopeful that the slower pace of life will provide more time for eligible individuals to make appointments to give blood.

Preventing a Blood Shortage During a Pandemic
My ultimate dream is that the silver lining of this pandemic will produce a new population of blood donors who will pass along this tradition to the generations that follow. Blood products can’t be bought or created. They must come from people who are generous enough to help someone in need.

About Jesse 
Jesse Saperstein is a 38-year-old motivational speaker and autism advocate. He is the author of Atypical and Getting a Life with Asperger’s published by Penguin Group (USA). Jesse currently lives in Guilderland, NY and is a Media and Activities Liaison for the College Experience, run by Living Resources, Inc.. Here he works to provide students with intellectual disabilities a modified education at the College of Saint Rose located in Albany, NY. 

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