First-person: after donor shared hers, I was ready to tell my family’s platelets story

By Tom Ruse, American Red Cross

We sometimes ask blood donors to give us a bit of background about why they donate and the experiences they’ve had. I was struck by one particular donor’s comments but was unable to reach out to flesh out the story.

Still, her brief comments about donating and her personal story about needing platelets motivated me to share a bit of my own experiences with donating.

First, her comments: “Donor blood/plasma saved my life. In June 2021, I went in for decreased movement at 31 weeks pregnant while having Covid. Tests showed my baby was struggling and my platelets were dropping dramatically. I had an emergency C-section and went to the ICU where I had [a transfusion of] four bags of plasma and a bag of blood. So grateful me and my daughter are here and thriving. Why donate? You can save a life! And you may need it one day.”

Tom, left, and Steve Ruse celebrate their mother’s 98th birthday recently.

Those last lines really hit home. Years ago, my brother, Steve, underwent intense cancer treatments at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. I mean, the whole nine yards. Massive chemo treatments, bone marrow transplant, radiation, the works. He was in it for the long haul. So long in fact that my sister-in-law rented an apartment nearby the hospital (they lived in Kansas City).

During the process he needed platelets and apparently, it’s not always a chip-shot to find a good fit for a donor. Bottom line was that I happened to be a good match. So, I flew down to Houston to donate.

Unfortunately, when my blood was tested, my white blood count was too high, likely on account of a recent cold. The last thing my brother needed was in infection, so I couldn’t donate. I was pretty bummed. He needed this and apparently couldn’t find an ideal donor! I was told if I waited a few days my virus infection might diminish to the point that I could safely donate. So, I had an unexpected longer stay in Houston. I visited my brother, my sister-in-law and I spent time finding some great eateries in the area. I even visited a long-lost cousin who lived there. A few days later I was cleared to donate – all good.

Even if you have a lot on your “Plate-Let’s” talk about donating

Donating platelets is a bit different than the whole blood donation most people are familiar with. They take it out of one arm, extract platelets, then put the blood right back in the other arm. It’s no more difficult than giving a pint of blood, it just takes a little longer. Figure two-to-three hours.

Steve recovered and was cancer free for 10 years before he got a second bout. His treatments this time were also quite intense but were able to be done at home in Kansas versus having to go to Houston. So I donated again; this time it was while I was visiting for Thanksgiving.

More good news, Steve’s second bout with cancer was 21 years ago! He’s bounced back and is doing great, spending lots of quality time with his grandkids when he’s not on the golf course. Or vice versa.

American Red Cross donors save thousands of lives each year with generous donations of blood, plasma and platelets. Photo by Michelle Frankfurter for the American Red Cross

Of course, the true heroes in this story are the medical staff. And Steve is the biggest hero of all, with his tenacity and sheer will to kick cancer’s ass. I’d say he’s a walking miracle, if there ever was one.

“It’s hard to put into words really”, Steve shared, “how special and inspirational it is when you experience receiving a donation, especially when you know it was specifically for you”.

“You can save a life! And you may need it one day”

Indeed! Just as that donor said recently. And as I’ve reflected on with my own platelet donations. I invite you to consider the uniquely rewarding experience of helping others by donating platelets, plasma or blood. Find a drive or donation center near you and make an appointment at or by calling 800 RED CROSS.

Local volunteer goes the extra 23,000 miles for the Red Cross

Red Cross volunteer Don Suloff loads boxes of lifesaving blood into the Red Cross vehicle to deliver to area hospitals. Photo by Laura McGuire / American Red Cross

By Laura McGuire, American Red Cross

The American Red Cross is always in need of blood and platelet donations, but it’s also in need of local volunteers to help transport blood products to area hospitals.

Don Suloff is a volunteer and platelet donor, who inspires and encourages others to follow in his footsteps during National Volunteer Month and Volunteer Appreciation Week, both in April.  

Suloff, a transportation specialist for more than 20 years, has logged nearly 23,000 miles behind the wheel of a Red Cross vehicle.

A quick Google search reveals that it takes 24,901 miles to circle the earth. Suloff has about 1,900 miles to go before he can claim to have rounded the globe in his volunteer travels. But it’s not about the mileage; he thrives on helping people and making a difference in the community by delivering thousands of blood donations to area hospitals.

While enjoying his retired life, Suloff found he had extra time on his hands and wanted to put it to good use. So, every Tuesday and Sunday morning you can find Suloff at the Red Cross donation center in Madison loading boxes filled with precious, lifesaving blood to deliver to area hospitals.

In 2001, Suloff got his start volunteering with the Red Cross as a blood donor ambassador, a role where he would check blood donors into their appointments, answer questions and give out post donation snacks. He volunteered at various community drives throughout the Madison area.

In 2010, Suloff became a transportation specialist. “I like driving and visiting with people”, said Suloff. “This is a perfect volunteer opportunity for me.” Whether visiting with Red Cross staff or hospital staff, Suloff’s caring, compassionate personality shines through and inspires us all.

“Some days I deliver a couple boxes of blood, some days I deliver eight boxes of blood,” said Suloff, a Madison resident. Suloff finds delivering blood to area hospitals an easy task but a very important thing to do. “Knowing that I am delivering blood is very rewarding, especially knowing that patient’s lives depend on it.”

Red Cross blood donor Don Suloff takes a moment to smile for the camera while donating platelets for patients in need. Photo by Laura McGuire / American Red Cross

On most Tuesdays, after volunteering his time as a transportation specialist, Suloff steps into the donation center to donate platelets for patients in need. Platelet donors are able to donate once every seven days up to 24 times a year and Suloff contributes every chance he gets. He has donated more than 117 gallons of blood in the past 30 years.

Suloff’s recalls one on his fondest Red Cross memories – While out in the community and wearing a “Red Cross Cancer Kicker T-shirt,” given to him as a thank you gift for one of his many donations, a woman he didn’t know approached him. Upon seeing his T-shirt, she thanked him for donating blood. She was indeed thankful for the lifesaving gift of blood as she had just completed her cancer treatment and knew too well the priceless gift of platelets.

“That was quite an impactful moment, and one I will always remember” said Suloff. “When I told her I also volunteered with the Red Cross and delivered blood to area hospitals she was even more thrilled.”

During this National Volunteer Week, we salute our Red Cross volunteers, celebrate their accomplishments and recognize each and every one of them for their lifesaving work. Without these volunteer heroes the Red Cross could not achieve our mission of helping people in need.

More than 90 percent of the Red Cross workforce is volunteers. Last year, more than 300,000 individuals volunteered their time to support the mission of the Red Cross.

Our volunteers are the true heart and soul of the Red Cross. With endless compassion and dedication, Red Cross volunteers give of themselves whenever and wherever they are needed. You, too, can help.

Please consider becoming a Red Cross volunteer, visit to learn more, or make an appointment to give blood by visiting

Smoke alarms save lives: Free installations for Wisconsin residents in need as part of Red Cross home fire safety effort

Wisconsin residents in need can sign up for a free smoke alarm installation and home fire safety plan this May from the American Red Cross of Wisconsin and our partners. This includes focused community-wide events coming up in Milwaukee, Sun Prairie, La Crosse and Fond du Lac.

“Our goal is to save lives,” said Mark Thomas, Regional CEO and Southeast Wisconsin Chapter Executive Director, American Red Cross. “There has been a disturbing spike in home fires over the past two years. That’s why we want to make sure everyone has working smoke alarms, which can cut the risk of dying in a home fire by half.”

Residents who need assistance can visit or call 888-376-4056 to schedule an appointment for a free smoke alarm installation this May. All Wisconsin residents in need are eligible for these free home fire safety resources.

During the 20-minute home visits, Red Cross volunteers and partners will also share information on the causes of home fires, how to prevent them, what to do if a fire starts and how to create an escape plan.

While home fire visits may be scheduled across the state, for May 2022 Red Cross teams and partners will also have focused events in communities and neighborhoods, as follows:

Spanish language appointments and volunteer sign up are also available at

Red Cross volunteers install a new smoke alarm during a “Sound the Alarm” event in 2019 in Menasha.

This work is made possible thanks to generous financial donations from regional partners such as QBE, Mercury Marine, United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County, Nicholas Family Foundation, Generac Power Systems, Brewers Community Foundation, Great Rivers United Way, Milwaukee Tool, Festival Foods and We Energies Foundation.

Additional community partners with this initiative include Milwaukee Fire Department, Fond du Lac Fire and Rescue, Sun Prairie Fire Department, La Crosse Fire Department, Basilica of St. Josaphat, Pete’s Fruit Market, El Rey, City of Fond du Lac Senior Center, Aging and Disability Resource Center, and Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee.

You’re invited: fundraising gala celebrates southeastern Wisconsin heroes, supports Red Cross mission

          In-person and virtual tickets now available for 2022 Brave Hearts event

MILWAUKEE (April 6, 2022) – The 2022 Brave Hearts fundraising gala will return as an in-person event this May! There is no better way to celebrate coming back together as a community than by honoring this year’s heroes from southeast Wisconsin and supporting the humanitarian mission of the American Red Cross.

The fun-filled night at Kohl’s Innovation Center will begin at 5 p.m., Thursday, May 12. This year’s event will be hybrid, allowing for online and in-person access to the evening’s inspiring hero stories, alluring auction items and many opportunities to join the Red Cross mission. Online and in-person tickets are available at

Chosen across a handful of categories, honorees at this year’s Brave Hearts represent the best in spirit, service and action in our communities. The 2022 heroes are:

Frank Nee (Milwaukee Co.) – Hero of the Year

Sophie LaRose (Waukesha Co.) – Adult Good Samaritan Hero

Molly & Dustin Kesner (Ozaukee Co.) – Community Safety, Security & Resiliency Heroes

Milwaukee F.D. Station 24 & Rescue 2 (Milwaukee Co.) – Emergency Response Heroes

Passion Terrell (Milwaukee Co.) – From the Heart Hero

Eric Beach & Eric Hill (Waukesha Co.) – Military Hero

Isabel Zuniga-Meyer (Waukesha Co.) – Youth Good Samaritan Hero

Tickets are now on sale and will be available through the start of the event. Attendees who purchase individual tickets before April 22 will receive an early-bird discount.

Brave Hearts is made possible by incredible, generous support from organizations in southeast Wisconsin. Lead supporters this year include Nicholas Company, Northwestern Mutual, American Red Cross Tiffany Circle, Brewers Community Foundation, Clarios, Johnson Controls, Kohl’s and Molson Coors. Additional support is provided by A. O. Smith, Halo, SC Johnson, Snap-on, SysLogic, Rockwell Automation, We Energies and West Bend Mutual. All proceeds benefit the programs and people helped by the Southeast Wisconsin Chapter of the American Red Cross.

For info on ticketing & the event, email Sasha J. Parsons Waters: