By Daphne Matthew, Oregon Trail Chapter, American Red Cross
The 2014 Martin Luther King Blood Drive is Monday, Jan. 20, 1:30 -7:30 p.m. at the Portland Donor Center, 3131 N. Vancouver Ave., Portland. If you have questions regarding your eligibility to donate blood, please call 1-866-236-3276. All presenting donors will receive a complimentary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pin and a box of Girl Scout cookies, while supplies last.
Charletta Malone is a dedicated American Red Cross employee and has been since 1991. She takes pride in educating her community about the importance of donating blood. She is particularly passionate about informing African Americans of the need for blood. She is also an advocate for sickle-cell anemia patients. Sickle-cell is a painful disease that often requires blood transfusions and is prevalent among African Americans. Malone’s passion around blood donation is personal; it was blood transfusions that helped save her life.
In 1995, Malone was pregnant with her third child–and as most expectant mothers do, she visited her obstetrician for a routine check-up one week before the expected arrival. During the examination, the doctor was listening for the baby’s heartbeat. It was faint. This finding caused immediate alarm because the heartbeat was very strong just one week earlier. Adding to the complications, Malone started to have contractions and with each contraction, her tiny son’s heart rate weakened. Further testing revealed the baby’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, not once–but twice. As a result, every contraction was strangling the baby and he struggled to breathe.
“I was told I would need an emergency cesarean-section. I was rushed to surgery and thankfully my husband was able to make in time” recounted Malone. “When I arrived, the contractions were coming closer together. Due to the serious nature of the complications, my doctor asked me, if anything was to happen, who should we attempt to save?’ I immediately answered, saying–“save my child.”
The situation worsened as Malone started to bleed internally. Her son was turning a blue-gray color due to a lack of oxygen. The surgical team successfully loosened the cord from around his neck and he began breathing. Malone said, “I was so happy.” Things seemed to be turning around, her son was OK and the doctor had been able to stop her bleeding. She was later sent to recovery and then to the hospital room to hold her son for a short time.
Exhausted and still recovering, Malone drifted off to sleep while the baby was in the care of nursing staff. Upon a routine check, a nurse discovered that Malone had started to hemorrhage. “I was rushed to surgery again to stop the bleeding and they had having difficulty stopping the flow of blood,” said Malone. “I was informed after surgery that I died for a few seconds. Back in my room, the doctor explained that I had lost a lot of blood and would need more blood transfusions. I felt a sigh of relief as I noticed on the label on the pint of blood was from the American Red Cross Blood Services Pacific Northwest Region, the region where I work. Right then, I knew I was going to be OK!”
Healthy and enjoying life, you’ll see Malone every year faithfully attending community outreach events such as The Skanner Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast and Annual Celebration, the Good in the “Hood” Parade and the Annual Charles Drew Community Blood Drive. Malone also makes frequent guest presentations at events and meetings as requested.
Malone said, “I enjoy my job where I can make a difference every day for patients who depend on the Red Cross for lifesaving services. I’m thankful for our blood and platelet donors, and to this day, I’m grateful to God for allowing me to live.”
How to Donate Blood
Simply call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.