“Blood saved my life” local Red Cross employee shares going from blood collector to blood recipient

By Laura McGuire, American Red Cross

Since November 2019, Brian Reignier from Green Bay has worked on the Red Cross Blood Services Team in Northwest Wisconsin. In January 2022, Reignier went from blood collector to blood recipient. 

After an emergency surgery to repair an infected knee replacement, Reignier was released from the hospital. While recovering at home, he experienced post-surgery complications and started to lose a significant amount of blood. When he returned to the hospital, his blood pressure and hemoglobin levels were extremely low putting his life in extreme danger. Reignier required an immediate blood transfusion.

“My doctor said if I would have waited another hour to go back to the hospital, that they would be speaking to family members and not me,” said Reignier. “The blood saved my life.”  

Reignier needed blood during the 2022 blood crisis. Hospital personnel had orders to provide blood, but out of an abundance of caution, and to stretch the blood supply, only two out of the three units were needed. With limited inventory, type O negative blood (the universal blood type) was the only blood available.

Reignier remembers looking at the blood bag hanging on the pole and recognizing it as one that he and his colleagues collect from donors every day and how thankful he is for those donors. 

Reignier is back collecting blood from donors and fulfilling the mission of the Red Cross. He has been associated with the Red Cross since he was 16 years old in the role of a lifeguard and first aid/CPR instructor and, most recently, occasionally volunteering with the disaster action team for home fires. “I’m very proud to be associated with an organization that has had the longevity and reputation that the Red Cross has by helping others,” said Reignier. 

During the summer months, blood and platelet donations often do not keep pace with hospital demand. that’s why the American Red Cross is teaming up WBAY-TV and Star 98 WQLH for the 36th annual Super Donor Days Blood Drive Thursday, June 30 from noon to 6 p.m. and Friday, July 1 from 6 a.m. to noon at Tundra Lodge Resort, 865 Lombardi Ave, Green Bay.

All presenting donors will receive a Red Cross recycled cotton tote bag, a $10 gift card (via email), courtesy of Suburban Propane, while supplies last. Special refreshments and picnic style food will be available.

Appointments are strongly encouraged. Walk ins will be allowed as space permits.

Schedule an appointment to donate blood by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). You can also find ways to make a financial donation or join us as a volunteer at RedCross.org.

Madison blood drive brings groups together to fight sickle cell disease

Story by Nicole Sandler, Photos by Laura McGuire, American Red Cross

Walking into the American Red Cross Sickle Cell Awareness blood drive on April 30 at the Urban League of Greater Madison felt somewhat like walking into a party.

Amidst the conference room filled with donation beds, blood collection vials, tubing, needles and expert phlebotomists, there was a sense of connection, community and appreciation. Volunteers from Madison’s local chapters of Black fraternities and sororities helped with tasks such as signing in those who had pre-registered to donate blood and registering those who walked in. Other volunteers cheerfully worked at stations set up with chairs for resting and healthy snacks to replenish the energy of those who had just donated blood. Red Cross balloons and lively music added a festive air, and catch-up conversations and educational opportunities were plentiful.

Martin Lackey of Madison battles sickle cell disease. Sharing his story was key to rally friends and colleagues toward donations at a recent blood drive at the Urban League of Greater Madison.

When Martin Lackey arrived at the blood drive that morning, he was met with many high fives, hugs and smiles. As someone suffering from sickle cell anemia, he was there to provide support and inspiration. With his connections across various Madison organizations, Lackey realized an opportunity to bring together around an issue that has acutely affected local Black friends and family. Martin explained that the first step in the process involved calling his friend Dr. Ruben Anthony, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, and the man Martin considers his mentor.  

Dr. Anthony in turn helped to coordinate the April 30 blood drive. “As a leader in our community, he has a bigger vision for this challenge,” Lackey said of Dr. Anthony.

Sickle cell anemia is a highly hereditary form of anemia characterized by low hemoglobin levels. Hemoglobin is the most important protein in red blood cells as it’s responsible for carrying oxygen. Red blood cells with defective hemoglobin contort into sickle, or crescent, shapes, and that is how the disease earned its name. Sickle cells die early, leading to a constant shortage of red blood cells, and when they travel through small blood vessels, because of their abnormal shape, they often get stuck and clog blood flow. This can cause pain and other serious problems like infection, shortness of breath, acute chest syndrome and stroke. Treatment includes medications, blood transfusions, and in some cases, a bone marrow transplant. Whatever a sickle cell patient’s status or recommended treatment may be, these patients require additional blood throughout their lives.

Martin was diagnosed at a young age with sickle cell anemia, and unfortunately, his diagnosis was not novel for his family – his older sister suffered from the disease as well and eventually died. After growing up in Chicago for the first 12 years of his life, his family moved to Madison where he attended local middle and high schools, and then earned a degree in business management at Madison College. He continues to pursue his passion for real estate and founded his own Realtor agency. He accomplished all of this despite struggling his entire life to manage the symptoms, and the pain, of sickle cell anemia. He describes being in and out of hospitals, and while his current stays are shorter in length, as a child he was hospitalized for months at a time.

Bobby Moore sips juice during his Power Red donation at the Urban League offices in Madison. Moore was inspired to give by those dealing with sickle cell disease, like his friend Martin Lackey.

Now, as an adult at age 45 with “too many years of experience” under his belt, he knows better how to manage the symptoms. He keeps extra oxygen at home and a steady supply of prescription pain medications.

Martin speaks with pride about his six adult children – four of his own and two nephews whom he raised and also counts as his own after his sister passed away. They are the focus of his life and he worries about the trauma they’ve suffered through witnessing their father’s chronic illness. Through it all, his disease has defined him and remains a constant in his family’s life. That is a significant reason why Martin remains motivated to do something about it. By raising awareness of sickle cell anemia and the need for blood donations to keep those with the disease alive, he believes he can help.

In all, this drive in Madison served 21 first-time donors and collected 55 units of blood. Just as important, the event met its goal of raising awareness about a painful, challenging disease. Through these efforts, more research and more engagement around sickle cell anemia can be achieved, and Martin Lackey will continue to inspire us all to do our part.

Click here to learn how the American Red Cross is taking on sickle cell disease with testing, blood supply diversity, scholarships and more.

Annual membership notice for the SE Wisconsin Chapter of the American Red cross

The American Red Cross – Southeast Wisconsin Chapter is inviting all eligible members to join our annual membership meeting at 7:30 a.m., Wednesday, June 15, 2022.

Membership is open to anyone who has made a monetary contribution, performed volunteer service and/or donated blood to the American Red Cross. The purpose of membership is to promote community understanding, commitment and support of the Red Cross mission and services.

This annual meeting will be led by the Board of Directors of the Southeast Chapter and will include election of officers as well as regular business updates.

This meeting will be held in-person and virtually via Microsoft Teams, out of a continuing abundance of caution due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For an invitation to the meeting or other questions, reach out to Regional CEO and Southeast Wisconsin Chapter Executive Mark Thomas at mark.thomas3@redcross.org or Regional Coordinator Executive Constance Palmer at constance.palmer@redcross.org.

Near-death medical onslaught brings Muskego woman closer to blood that supported recovery

By Laura McGuire, American Red Cross

Two heart attacks, one stroke, stage 5 liver and kidney disease, an official diagnosis of hemolytic anemia brought on by lupus and then considered essentially dead for seven minutes.

For most people having any one of these health events would create a life-changing moment. Shannon Estes experienced them all. The process to come through the other side, alive and well, including numerous blood transfusions – Estes can only see it as “unbelievable.”

During the next course of tests, Estes said she flatlined on the table and was considered dead for seven minutes. She was placed on life support where she remained in a medically induced coma.  

On October 25, 2021, Estes, of Muskego, was getting ready for work when she was struck with an excruciating headache, a tingling sensation down her arm and shortness of breath. A trip to the hospital diagnosed Estes with a heart attack. Her hemoglobin levels were low requiring her to receive a blood transfusion. An ultrasound to determine the blood loss came back as inconclusive and her blood levels continued to decline.  

Estes woke up three days later, on a ventilator with stage 5 liver and kidney disease. During this critical time, she was on continuous dialysis and suffered yet another heart attack plus a stroke. Her life was in jeopardy and the doctors were not optimistic. Her blood levels were still low and now they were faced with many more complications.  

Estes spent three weeks in the ICU and received multiple blood transfusions – many times having to wait 24-to-72 hours for the right match. She was diagnosed with hemolytic anemia, a disorder in which red blood cells are destroyed faster than they can be made, brought on by lupus, a disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs.  

Receiving Type B positive blood has given Estes another chance to live her life and she is incredibly grateful for blood donors. “The Lord works in mysterious ways,” said Estes. “It’s unbelievable to think that a few minutes of someone’s time and a little bit of their blood literally gave me a chance to see my children live their lives.” 

Estes is recovered, back to work and walking about a mile a day. She works at the Muskego Circle Community Center where she hosts local American Red Cross community blood drives throughout the year.  

“Before my personal experience, I have to admit that I never understood how a blood drive could impact so many lives,” said Estes. “Now I’m honored to be able to provide a space for you to do it.” When asked about encouraging others to donate, Estes said, “I’d like them to consider what they’d hope someone would do for their loved ones should they ever be in a situation like mine.” 

The Red Cross of Wisconsin region provides numerous opportunities for eligible blood donors to give blood this summer. That includes two signature drives, each with summer style and giveaways:

  • The 17th annual Milwaukee County Zoo Blood Drive Monday, June 27 through Wednesday, June 29 from 9:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. at the zoo’s Peck Center, 10001 W. Bluemound Road, Milwaukee.
  • The 22nd annual Madison Beach Days Blood Drive, Friday, July 1 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Sheraton Hotel, 706 John Nolen Drive, Madison.

Appointments are strongly encouraged. Walk-ins will be taken as space allows.

Schedule an appointment to donate blood at an upcoming blood drive by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). You can also find ways to make a financial donation or join us as a volunteer at RedCross.org.