NORTH JERSEY — Every now and then we may notice the faint blue and purple lines on the inside of our wrists when we check our watches for the time, or notice these veins bulging throughout our bodies after a strenuous workout. But seldom are we reminded of the nutrient-rich blood flowing through them that keep us alive. While the thought of having blood running through our veins is something we may look past or even take for granted while we are healthy and active, there are ailing people who — every two seconds to be precise — are in dire need of it to sustain their life.
Now more than ever, blood donations are needed. Since the coronavirus pandemic took the world by storm earlier this year, an “unprecedented number” of blood drives were canceled following the lockdown, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Vitalant — a network of almost a dozen community blood centers, one of which is right in Paramus — is one of the nation’s oldest nonprofit transfusion medicine organizations that is currently faced with a “critical need” for all blood types.
If anyone is a testament to that demand, it’s Lindsay Myers. The spirited television personality, who many may know from her escapades on Access Hollywood and Bravo TV as a lifestyle guru, witnessed her late mother — who was diagnosed in 2013 with neuroendocrine tumors, a rare form of cancer that Steve Jobs was also afflicted with — endure a 12-hour surgery at a South Carolina Hospital in October 2016. During surgery, she needed a whopping 118 pints of blood while doctors worked diligently to remove a tumor, which had formed outside her liver, after she had repeatedly bled out.
“They pooled their resources, and they ran out,” recalled Myers of that stressful day that doctors dubbed a miracle. “Then they asked the hospital across the street, they ran out. And then they called The American Red Cross.”
Myers said there was no rhyme or reason as to why she survived the surgery. But the American Red Cross’s donation is what kept her alive. Following surgery, Myers said her mother experienced organ failure and was placed in a medically-induced coma for 10 days where she spent in the Intensive Care Unit and remained hospitalized for two months before she returned home.
“She fought hard for as long as she could,” said Myers in the years that followed.
After her mother’s miraculous recovery, Myers vowed to host an annual blood drive with American Red Cross, a national humanitarian organization that provides emergency assistance, in their native Charleston to give back to those who need it. In the years following her surgery, her mother — who received monthly blood transfusions thereafter — was an essential part of that mission. Despite her passing in August 2019, the Meyers family continues to carry the torch of her legacy by holding these drives, immortalized in her valiant battle with cancer.
Earlier this month, Myers organized a fourth blood drive through the American Red Cross for her mom for her birthday. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the event was well-attended by about three dozen people, which equates to helping up to 99 people — the family’s biggest turnout to date. Participants donned masks and gloves and practiced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s six-feet-apart rule. While her mom wasn’t physically present to see it, her graceful, altruistic spirit was evident in the dozens of donors who showed up to give the gift of life.
“She was unbelievable,” said Myers of her mom’s six-year battle. “She fought for so long, but never complained once in her life. She was so passionate and selfless. That’s why this blood drive is so important to us. We’ll do it for as long as we can. It meant so much to her. Until you’re directly affected, you don’t see how big of an action it is to donate.”
According to the American Red Cross, someone in the United States is in need of blood every two seconds, whether during cancer treatment, undergoing essential surgeries or sustaining traumatic injuries. A single donation from one person is enough to save up to three lives.
While people may have their concerns for their safety given the current climate, the time to donate has never been more pivotal.
“I feel very passionately,” said Myers. “With the Covid pandemic, it’s more important than ever to speak up.”
During the blood drive in Charleston this past month, which was held in a church, beds were positioned 8 feet apart and Myers performed temperature checks for all donors who donned surgical masks and other personal protective equipment.
“I want to encourage people,” she said. “There is still such a need. People are still fighting for their lives, not just from coronavirus.”
She continued, “It is a selfless act. I started at a young age. I would give blood to get out of class,” she joked. “You don’t realize how important it is until it hits home.”
Today, Myers is committed to keeping these blood drives going, not only in her mom’s honor, but for everyone in need.
“It was nice to look around and see full beds,” she said of her recent drive’s turnout. “Instead of being sad, my family is just smiling. My mom would have been so happy. It means so much to her that we’re doing it in honor of her. Everything’s worthwhile.”
Vitalant Paramus Donor Center is located at One West Ridgewood Avenue, Suite 208. Call 201-444-3900 to make an appointment.
To host a blood drive with an American Red Cross near you, go to redcrossblood.org.